Nick Fanti stepped off the mound once or twice in the ninth inning and tried to compose himself. He could feel the pressure building in the ballpark.
"The energy in the stadium was crazy," he said. "I had to step off just to gather myself."
Fanti, pitching in front of his father and girlfriend, did not allow a hit and struck out a career-high 12 in his first career complete game as Class A Lakewood blanked Charleston, 1-0, on Monday afternoon at FirstEnergy Park.
Fanti (7-2) retired 27 of 28 batters faced, allowing only a two-out walk to Brandon Wagner in the second. He got Carlos Vidal to fly out to center fielder Mickey Moniak for the final out, setting off a celebration on the field that included his father, who made the trip from Long Island, New York.
"It's a cool experience to throw it in front of a home crowd," he said. "My dad was there and that was special."
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It's the second time Fanti has been part of a no-hitter this season -- the Phillies left-hander combined on one May 6 when he pitched 8 2/3 innings and Trevor Bettencourt got the final out against Columbia.
2017 Minor League milestones
Fanti took things one step further against the RiverDogs. He retired the final 22 batters and threw 77 of 112 pitches for strikes in a game that featured two total hits and lasted just one hour, 47 minutes.
"It was a great feeling," he said. "Going into today, I didn't feel my best. Any time that happens and I'm in the bullpen, my pitching coach [Brian Sweeney] reminds me, 'You know the Nolan Ryan story about how he threw a bad bullpen and threw a no-hitter?' Afterward he said, 'Wow, you really took that seriously?' So, that was cool."
The 20-year-old's no-hitter was the sixth in Lakewood history and also marked the first time a BlueClaws pitcher has thrown nine innings and picked up a victory in a no-hitter. Gavin Floyd was the last Lakewood pitcher to throw nine frames in a no-hitter, but it came in a losing effort in 2002.
Video: Fanti Tosses No-Hitter
Fanti's dad and girlfriend joined the celebration, giving the group a unique moment about 120 miles from his hometown of Smithtown, New York.
"He was just proud -- he was pretty emotional," Fanti said. "They were both kinda shocked and speechless. He said, 'That was wild. I hope it hits you at some point.' I'm still a little shocked by it all."
A 31st-round pick in 2015, Fanti has struck out 20, walked one and allowed just three hits over his last two starts spanning 16 innings. With the gem, Fanti lowered his ERA from 2.80 to 2.52, moving him into fifth on the circuit. The high school product said one pitch was the key to success.
"I think today what helped was me locating my fastball early and being able to finish them with the fastball, too," he said. "I felt strong. If I had any doubt, I just tried to throw it away and I knew how close I was. I felt good."
The no-hit performance also came despite Fanti working with catcher Gregori Rivero for the first time. The backstop was promoted to the Sally League last Tuesday.
"I'd never thrown to him," said Fanti, who said he briefly worked with Rivero in Spring Training but never in a game. "Today was important, and I mentioned that to him before the game and we got on the same page. We talked about what we wanted to do with the hitters and how to pitch to some guys. We were talking during the game, too, until he noticed the no-hitter was going on and he started to stay away."
Nick Fanti embraces BlueClaws manager Marty Malloy after the feat. (Mike Dill/Lakewood BlueClaws)
Charleston's best chance for a hit came in the fifth when Yankees prospect Mandy Alvarez hit a sharp grounder to third, where Luke Williams made a diving play and threw him out to end the inning.
"Guy smoked a grounder into the hole and he made a diving play, a really good play," Fanti said. "There was another ball that was smoked right at [second baseman Daniel Brito]. A few line drives hit at [center fielder David Martinelli] were tough plays, right at him."
Phillies No. 24 prospect JoJo Romero, who began the season with Fanti in Lakewood, tweeted his reaction after the final out.
Fanti got the only run he needed with one out in the second when Henri Lartigue hit his seventh homer of the year off starter Alexander Vargas (0-1), making his Charleston debut. It was the only hit the right-hander allowed as he struck out five and didn't walk a batter in six frames.
Fanti said he felt fine in the ninth and, despite taking a couple moments to calm himself, wasn't thinking about his last no-hitter.
"I was just trying to work in the moment a little bit and just wanted to finish it," he said. "I just wanted to finish it for the satisfaction of it. I had a lot of help from my defense, a lot of denfing moments in that game that helped to get the result."
And when it ended? Fanti was in shock.
"That was awesome, it's really indescribable," he said. "Everyone is so excited for you. Luke Williams tackled me and someone threw Gatorade on me."