Festa, Nowlin and McMahon combine for Fort Myers’ first nine-inning no-hitter
FORT MYERS – David Festa, Jaylen Nowlin and Hunter McMahon combined for the first nine-inning no-hitter in Fort Myers franchise history Tuesday, as the Mighty Mussels defeated the Palm Beach Cardinals 3-0 at Hammond Stadium.
Tuesday’s no-no was the second in eight months for the Mighty Mussels (15-10). Regi Grace Jr, Landon Leach, Brad Hanner and Matthew Swain combined for a seven-inning no-hitter on Sept. 18, 2021. Prior to the 2021 no-hitter, the Fort Myers franchise went 10 years without one. Alex Wimmers (2011) and Yohan Pinto (2007) each threw seven-inning no-hitters for the Miracle.
Festa did the heavy lifting, tossing six no-hit innings, striking out a career-high 11 while walking just two.
“Me and Dill were on the same page with a lot of things,” Festa said. “We just tried to keep the approach consistent throughout, attack the zone, and trust your stuff. I got good results, but no-hitters are a team thing. Tatum called a hell of a game, I only shook him off a couple of times. My defense made great plays, and credit Jaylen and Hunter for finishing it off.”
Festa averaged 95.8 mph on his fastball, topping out at 99.1 mph. The Seton Hall product mixed all three pitches well (53% fastball, 29% slider, 18% changeup), earning 22 swings and misses.
“Against Dunedin, I didn’t throw as many changeups as I would’ve liked,” said Festa. “I put it in the approach against Lakeland that I wanted to throw my changeup more often. Before this game as well, I said ‘let’s get the changeup going’ in our pre-game meeting.”
Festa only threw two changeups against a right-hand heavy Dunedin lineup on April 23, before utilizing it 23% of the time in Lakeland on May 4. He threw 15 of them on Tuesday, with 11 landing for strikes and six of them yielding whiffs. He finished the night with 84 pitches, one below his limit.
“Luckily, I was able to keep it pretty efficient throughout,” Festa said. “I was feeling strong and I wanted to keep going. I want to get at least five every outing. The last couple outings, my pitch count got a little high. We talked about being more efficient, attacking the zone. And when we get ahead early, to put them away early.”
Nowlin entered in the seventh and quickly mowed down six straight Cardinals (11-17), striking out three. Sixteen of Nowlin’s 21 pitches were strikes.
“I felt really good,” Nowlin said. “All three of my pitches were on, felt in command hitting my spots. I just felt good all-around today.”
McMahon entered for the ninth, walking Aaron McKeithan on four pitches. After a close play on a groundout advanced the runner to second, Tyler Reichenborn ripped a line drive to the mound. McMahon stuck out his glove and snatched the ball before spinning a throw to second to double off McKeithan and seal the no-hitter.
“It felt like time froze,” McMahon said. “I don’t know how hard it was hit, but it took forever for the ball to get to me. I had to move to my left a little bit, hold my glove out, and then a little shuffle of the feet and made a decent throw.”
“It was definitely an interesting ending. You don’t usually see a line-drive double play to finish a no-hitter,” said Festa. “It was pretty tense, you just don’t want to jinx anything. It’s something special.”
Neither Nowlin nor McMahon were aware of the no-hit possibility while they pitched on Tuesday.
“I had no idea there was a no-hitter until everyone was going crazy and then I get doused in Gatorade,” McMahon said. “I didn’t see them until they hit me. I was like, ‘Damn, okay. That must have meant it was a no-hitter right?’ It was an awesome moment.”
“I looked at the scoreboard in between my first and second inning,” Nowlin said. “But right in between, I swear I forgot completely and went out there and kept throwing. I guess I kind of tricked myself and said ‘don’t think about it’ so I could keep pitching regularly.”
The Mussels’ scored the first run of the game on a walk and an error in the first before Festa carried the 1-0 lead into the fifth. In the bottom of the inning, Fort Myers drew four walks against Palm Beach to make it 2-0.
Still leading by that margin in the eighth, Mikey Perez crushed a solo home run to left to extend the lead to 3-0 before McMahon closed out the ninth.