CLEARWATER, Fla. - It was a fun and unique day for the Villanova baseball team on Thursday afternoon as the Wildcats played an exhibition game against a squad of minor league prospects from the Philadelphia Phillies at Spectrum Field. The exhibition took place in the stadium at the Phillies minor league complex and a team that included several of the parent club’s top prospects tallied a 5-1 victory in a game which was a great experience for both sides.
Thursday’s game was a highly anticipated contest for Villanova during the midst of a seven-game trip to Florida during its Spring Break week. The game drew a number of notable onlookers, with Phillies staffers Larry Bowa and World Series champion manager Charlie Manuel in attendance for the contest. It was believed to be the first exhibition game for the Wildcats against a major league organization in 70 years and both teams liberally used their personnel to get several reserves into the game.
A total of 47 players appeared in the game, including 23 for Villanova as the Wildcats measured themselves against the Phillies mostly young pro prospects. Sophomore second baseman Dominic Sarro (North Riverside, Ill.) went 2-for-4, while freshman pinch hitter Chris Rotondo (Redding, Conn.) singled in the ninth inning and scored Villanova’s lone run on a fielding error. Senior center fielder David Gulati (Collegeville, Pa.) tripled to center field and freshman third baseman Jeff Manto (Bristol, Pa.) doubled to left-center for the Wildcats other hits on the day.
Eight pitchers appeared in the game for Villanova, including the Illinois trio of senior Andrew Owen (Chicago, Ill.), junior Jake Esp (Sugar Grove, Ill.) and senior Conor McCarthy (Glenview, Ill.) who all worked a scoreless inning. The game’s final tally included nine hits for the Phillies and five hits for the Wildcats, who played error-free defense. Senior left-hander Mike Sgaramella (Florham Park, N.J.) started and pitched the first two innings for Villanova.
Among the starters in the Phillies lineup were the organization’s No. 5 prospect Mickey Moniak in left field and No. 8 prospect Jhailyn Ortiz in right field. Moniak, the top overall pick in the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, went 2-for-2 with two walks in the game and Ortiz was 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
The roster of Phillies players who participated in the game featured many players who are at the Class A level of the team’s minor league system, although Phillies starting pitcher Drew Anderson pitched most of the 2017 campaign in Double-A Reading and made his major league debut out of the bullpen during the season. Anderson pitched three scoreless innings in the game.
The idea of major league organizations playing exhibitions against college teams is nothing new. Villanova took the field against the Phillies as early as 1899 and played a total of 10 times against the Phillies and the Philadelphia Athletics between 1899 and 1948.
Following Thursday’s game, the Wildcats were headed across the state to Kissimmee to begin play in the Sunshine State Games on Friday evening. The first of three games at that tournament is against George Mason on Friday at 5 p.m.