For Sam Donko, getting to pitch against the defending state champions in Columbus was just about a perfect way to cap a stellar career at Ursuline.
“It was very exciting, a dream come true,” said Donko, the Irish ace who finished with an 11-2 record. “All four years, I wanted to take a trip to Columbus, to be on that field and play. It was a great feeling”
Ursuline earned a state berth by defeating LaGrange Keystone, 6-1, and Orrville, 4-1, to win the Massillon regional tournament. Against Keystone, Donko struck out 15 batters and walked one.
“I was kind of relieved — we finally made it,” Donko said of the Massillon wins.
In the Division III state semifinal at Huntington Park, Donko went toe-to-toe with Wheelersburg ace Derek Moore as both tossed shutouts through seven innings. Wheelersburg scored twice in the eighth inning while the Irish left the bases loaded in their final at-bat of a 2-0 loss.
“We knew they would be a great challenge, we knew we would have to play our best game,” said Donko who struck out six batters and walked two in his final game.
Donko played four seasons for head coach Sean Durkin.
“It was pretty fun,” Donko said. “Coach Durkin can joke around and then be serious. He’s a great competitor, and he made me want to do my best. He pushed me to be the best that I could be.”
Donko wasn’t the only family member to experience state as an athlete. His older sister, Anna, was the shortstop when Ursuline was state runners-up 2009.
Donko is still weighing college offers but he knows what his major will be.
“I want to study special education,” Donko said. “I’ve always had a desire to help special needs kids.”