The 2012 Major League Baseball Spring Training season officially got underway Wednesday afternoon, as Florida State traveled south to face the defending NL East champions, the Philadelphia Phillies, in an exhibition game in Clearwater at Bright House Field.
The Phillies walked away with a 6-1 victory, but it was the experience of sharing the field with major leaguers that the Seminoles will remember forever.
"Our young men really enjoyed this opportunity," said coach Mike Martin. "It was just great the way we were treated down here. The Phillies are a class organization. Our guys got a lot of great memories, a couple freshmen got some base hits there at the end, the defense turned some double plays. It was just a beautiful, fun day."
Six different Seminoles recorded a base hit in the exhibition game, including singles from a trio of freshmen in Giovanny Alfonzo, John Nogowski and Lee Howard. Sherman Johnson singled in the sixth, and Stephen McGee reached base on two of his three plate appearances with a single and a walk. Sean O'Brien also picked up a hit, singling in front of the hometown crowd in the top of the eighth. Jayce Boyd scored the lone run for the Seminoles, which came off a wild pitch in the seventh.
"It was special," said Nogowski on the experience of playing the Phillies for the first time. "I had my family here, and you look over in the other dugout and there is Jim Thome, Jimmy Rollins and other guys that I grew up watching. Just to be on the same field as them was special."
"It was just a great day," said Johnson. "I was just excited. I had family and friends in the stands today. It was exciting for them as well. It was just a great time."
The Seminoles used nine pitchers on Wednesday, as each pitcher registered an inning of work. Luke Weaver started and was followed by Bryant Holtmann, Scott Sitz, Kyle Bird, Gage Smith, Adam Simmons, Mack Waugh, Evan Geist and Brandon Johnson.
Weaver looked very comfortable on the mound, as he retired the Phillies in order. The freshman right hander got Rollins to fly out to right for the first out of the inning. He then got Juan Pierre swinging on strikes and Shane Victorino to fly out to left.
"Luke pitched very well," added Martin. "All our pitchers did a good job today. It was just a great experience for all of them."
"I had nothing but a smile on my face," said Weaver. "It meant a lot for me to go out there and face those guys. I took advantage of every opportunity that I had. It was just a great experience. I will remember this for the rest of my life."
The Phillies recorded the first base runner of the game in the bottom of the second, as Hunter Pence drew a walk off Holtmann. But the Seminoles quickly erased the base runner, as the freshman southpaw got Ty Wigginton to ground into a double play. After Domonic Brown reached on a hit-by-pitch and moved to second on a stolen base, Holtmann kept the game scoreless, as John Mayberry Jr. grounded out to short to end the inning.
McGee became the first Seminole base runner of the afternoon, as he drew a one-out walk against reliever Jake Diekman. The sophomore catcher advanced to second on what looked like a base hit up the middle by Seth Miller, but Rollins made a spectacular backhanded stop and threw over to first for the out. McGee was stranded at second, as Diekman got Johnson looking at a called third strike.
The first hit of the game came off the bat of Tuffy Gosewisch in the third, as the Phillies catcher hit a double off the fence in right center off Sitz. After a walk to Rollins, Sitz got out of the jam, retiring Pierre and Victorino on an infield fly to short and a fly out to left, respectively.
Pence led off the bottom of the fourth with a double to straight-away center and moved to third on a groundout by Wigginton off Bird. But the freshman southpaw kept the Phillies off the scoreboard, as he got Brown to pop out to short and Mayberry to ground out to short.
Florida State threatened in the sixth, as McGee and Johnson recorded the Seminoles' first two hits of the game. McGee reached for the second time in as many at-bats, leading off the inning with an infield single to short off Joe Savery. Two batters later, Johnson singled to right, but Savery kept the game tied at zero, getting Travis to fly out to right and Josh Delph swinging on strikes.
The Phillies broke the scoreless tie in the sixth, pushing across a run off Adam Simmons. After opening the inning with a strikeout of Thome, Simmons allowed the next four batters to reach on two singles and a pair of walks. Scott Podsednik gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead, driving in Tyson Gillies from third on an infield single to short. Simmons held the Phillies to just one run, as Mayberry grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Florida State took advantage of a Philadelphia error in the seventh to tie the game at 1. Boyd reached on a fielding error to lead off the inning, moved to second on a single through the left side by Nogowski and advanced to third on a fielder's choice. With runners at the corners, J.C. Ramirez unleashed a wild pitch to score Boyd for the first Seminole run of the game.
Philadelphia broke the game open with five runs in the seventh to take a 6-1 lead. Hector Luna capped the scoring in the inning with a two-run homer to left off Mack Waugh. Three of the five runs scored by the Phillies in the inning were unearned.
O'Brien got a single off Phillippe Aumont in the eighth in front of the hometown crowd, while Alfonzo and Howard recorded consecutive two-out singles in the ninth.
Geist worked a perfect eighth, retiring the Phillies in order, and Brandon Johnson pitched a scoreless ninth.
The Seminoles will return home to face Maine for a three-game series beginning Friday, Mar. 2. First pitch is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.
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