CLEARWATER, Florida -- The Philadelphia Phillies defeated the University of Tampa Spartans at Bright House Field on Sunday, 8-3. The game was close early, but Philadelphia scored three in the bottom of the third inning to pull away in the event.
The Phillies came into the game extremely eager for a win after losing to the Spartans last spring, 6-2. The game on Sunday was the first exhibition of spring training for a big league team.
"A good scout friend of mine texted me last night (saying) he wanted to remind me that college teams vs. major league teams in spring training are 1-23," Philadelphia manager Pete Mackanin said. "So, we got rid of that."
Jeremy Hellickson, who is a lock for a spot in the 2016 Opening Day rotation, got the start for the Phillies and looked sharp in his debut for the team from Philadelphia. The 28-year-old tossed a perfect first inning of the exhibition contest. Hellickson, a right-hander, only used nine pitchers to retire the first three batters of the game.
Three quick runs got Hellickson the help he needed to record the win. Andrew Knapp, a catching prospect that has raw talent and could find the big leagues sooner than later, singled to score Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr. Meanwhile, Jorge Alfaro knocked in an RBI on a force out to third base to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead. In the second, Herrera singled on a line drive to center field, which increased the lead of the Phillies to four runs over the Spartans.
Herrera finished 2-for-2 with a run scored and an RBI on Sunday. He scored the first run of spring training and stole a base in the contest. The 24-year-old is bound to see a lot of playing time in the 2016 season, but his chance at a long major league career is still unknown after recently making the transition from middle infield to outfield.
"He hit a couple of lasers," Mackanin said of Herrera, who batted .297 in 147 games as a rookie last season.
Aaron Nola pitched the second inning against the University of Tampa and owned a perfect frame in the second inning. Nola does not throw heat, but can command a 92 mile per hour fastball that moves enough to prevent solid contact. While he will perform like a No. 2 or No. 3 man in a regular rotation, Nola is the ace of the Phillies staff at the age of 23 years old going into the 2016 season.
After Michael Kleinman knocked a two-run double to help cut the deficit to one-run, Philadelphia added three more runs in the third inning, which were highlighted by a huge two-run single off the bat of Angelys Nina.
Right-handed pitcher Chris Williams of the University of Tampa allowed the four of the first five hitters he faced to reach in the first of his two innings against the Phillies. Williams took the loss in the event.
With a four run lead in hand, Ryan Jackson singled on a shot up the middle to score Emmanuel Burriss and hand the Phillies an 8-3 lead in the exhibition battle.
"Not many of (our) guys are going to make it to major league baseball," University of Tampa manager Joe Urso said. "So to come out here and be able to play the Phillies, I can't thank them enough for putting this together for us two years in a row."
"These are memories this kids will never forget. It's not about winning and losing for me — for me it's about representing our university well, and we've done that two years in a row."
The Phillies host the Toronto Blue Jays in the Grapefruit League opener on Tuesday. Severino Gonzalez will toe the slab for Philadelphia.