Getting a chance to face Tim Tebow on Saturday night had to be a highlight for former Hauppauge lefthander Nick Fanti. But that wound up being a mere sidebar to the main story.
Fanti, 20, who won the Yastrzemski Award in 2015 as the top player in Suffolk County, pitched 8 2⁄3 innings in a combined no-hitter as the Lakewood (New Jersey) BlueClaws beat the Columbia Fireflies, 1-0, in a South Atlantic League game in South Carolina.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,’’ said Fanti, who pitched consecutive no-hitters for Hauppauge in his senior year. “It’s one thing to do it in high school and quite another to pitch a no-hitter in pro ball. It’s a great feeling to know you can have that kind of command and win a close game.’’
Fanti struck out the side in the eighth, getting Tebow swinging to end the inning. A throwing error in the ninth put a runner on second with none out, but a fielder’s choice and Fanti’s ninth strikeout left him an out away. He then issued his third walk and was removed after 113 pitches, and Trevor Bettencourt completed the combined no-hitter by striking out Michael Paez.
“I wanted to finish the game,’’ Fanti said, “but my pitch count was getting high and we had to get a fresh guy in there and get the win.’’
Fanti (2-0) lowered his ERA from 2.08 to 1.48. He struck out Tebow twice and also got him to ground into a forceout, dropping the lefthanded-hitting outfielder/DH’s average to .236.
“I tried to treat it like he was just another minor-league hitter,’’ Fanti said. “But the crowd definitely gets much louder when he comes up and it gets more intense with his at- bats. I got Tebow swinging on a 3-2 fastball and the second strikeout was a fastball up on a 1-2 pitch.’’
Jose Antequera’s sacrifice fly in the eighth produced the only run of the game.
Lakewood is a Class A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, who drafted Fanti on the same day that he won the Yastrzemski Award. Columbia is affiliated with the Mets.
Fanti pitched for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic this spring, retiring former Met Angel Pagan on a flyout and striking out the Mets’ T.J. Rivera in a scoreless inning against Puerto Rico.
Fanti entered Saturday night’s game with a 0.97 WHIP in four 2017 starts. The 6-2 lefthander had struck out 22 in 21 2⁄3 innings and held opponents to a .177 average.
In his three-year minor-league career, entering Saturday night, he had gone 9-1 with a 1.88 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. He had struck out 107 in 91 innings and held opponents to a .194 average.
With Gregg Sarra