CLEARWATER, Fla. - The No. 1 University of Tampa Spartans baseball team defeated Major League Baseball's Philadelphia Phillies contest in an exhibition, Sunday afternoon. Senior Giovanny Alfonzo smashed a game-winning two-out grand slam in the top of the seventh to propel the Spartans to victory.
Tampa entered the game with a record of 13-1, and although the win does not affect their NCAA record, the Spartans made history.
The victory stands as the first time an NCAA-sanctioned team has defeated an MLB team since the Division I University of Miami Hurricanes defeated the Florida Marlins (now the Miami Marlins) in 2011.
The Sunday afternoon game marked the opening for 2015 Spring Training and signaled the first game played by a Major League Baseball team this spring. It served as an exhibition game for the Spartans, who are currently the No. 1 team in NCAA Division II. UT has an overall record of 13-1 this season.
Junior RHP David Heintz started on the mound for the Spartans, tossing four complete innings and allowing just one earned run. The starter allowed four hits and two walks, striking out two.
Junior righty Dylan Barrow appeared on the mound first in relief, allowing two hits in two innings pitched. He earned the win in the exhibition.
Junior lefty Michael Calkins appeared for the seventh and eighth innings, allowing no hits and striking out one.
On the day, Tampa's pitching staff allowed just six Phillies hits, stranding ten runners on base and striking out six.
Both teams were quiet offensively through the first inning, and it was the Phillies who jumped on the board in the bottom of the second to take the lead. Philadelphia strung together a double and two singles before closing out the at-bat with a two-run lead.
Neither team scored during the next three innings, but Tampa came out swinging offensively in the top of the sixth inning. Senior Andrew Amaro led off the inning with a one-out outfield single, and stole second to give the Spartans a runner in scoring position. Senior Giovanny Alfonso then answered the call, sending a single to centerfield that scored Amaro to give Tampa their first run of the contest.
The top of the seventh featured an exciting outing for the Spartans, as Tampa came out in full force to take a 6-2 lead. Junior Ty Cooler led off the inning with a pinch-hit one-out single to centerfield, stealing second to give Tampa a runner in scoring position. One out later, junior pinch hitter Joe Walsh took first base on a walk. Senior pinch hitter Brett Joes then responded with a two-out infield single to load the bases, and all runners advanced on the next walk to Andrew Amaro, which tied the game at 2-2. With the bases still loaded, senior Giovanny Alfonzo blasted a homerun over the leftfield fence to propel the Spartans to a four-run lead. It was the defining score of the game.
Collectively, No. 1 Tampa recorded eight hits in the victory. Andrew Amaro, Giovanny Alfonso, Stephen Dezzi, Ty Cooler, Nick Tindall, and Brett Jones each registered hits against the MLB team, while Alfonso racked up five of the six RBI.
The UT baseball program is no stranger to big games, having traveled to Cuba to play some of the top teams in Cuba in January of 2014. The Spartans also defeated The Netherlands national team, 7-6, in a game prior to the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
Tampa will get back to NCAA action on Wednesday, March 3 when they host the visiting Lake Erie College Storm at UT Baseball Field. First pitch is set for 6:00 p.m. Live stats as well as a live video webcast will be available through www.tampaspartans.tv.
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