Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Space Coast Stadium hosts the Georgetown Hoyas this afternoon.
"This is going to be fun for me," Johnson said, "seeing guys I haven't seen perform before in a game."
This is also going to be fun for the Hoyas baseball club, which gets to enjoy an exhibition against a professional organization before heading to Winter Haven for an eight-game tournament against other Northeast college teams that have to come down here for good baseball weather.
"It's a huge thrill for them," said coach Pete Wilk, whose club is 6-2 so far this season. "I heard my shortstop talking about the infield, how unbelievable it is taking groundballs out here. We walked into the clubhouse and their names are up on their lockers. I mean, we don't get that experience. These guys are getting a big-league experience that they won't forget. They won't forget this."
This game isn't being broadcast anywhere, but you're in luck. I'll be providing updates throughout, so please make sure to check back often as the Nationals take the field for the first time in 2012...
GEORGETOWN HOYAS vs. WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Space Coast Stadium, Viera
Gametime: 12 p.m.
Weather: Partly cloudy, 81 degrees, Wind 10 mph in from CF
STARTING LINEUPS12:03 p.m. -- Matt Purke fires a fastball to Justin Leeson for strike one. It's 80 spectacular degrees. Guess what folks, it's baseball season!
2B Steve Lombardozzi
LF Xavier Paul
RF Bryce Harper
1B Tyler Moore
DH Brett Carroll
3B Anthony Rendon
CF Corey Brown
SS Andres Blanco
C Sandy Leon
(P Matt Purke)
CF Justin Leeson
LF Paul Bello
SS Mike Garza
1B Danny Poplawski
C Kevin Johnson
3B Corbin Blakey
RF Christian Venditti
DH Jim Laufer
2B Andy Lentz
(P Will Harris)
12:06 p.m. -- Pretty good stuff from Purke. He did give up a groundball double inside the third-base bag to Paul Bello, but he got a weak grounder out of Mike Garza and then ended the inning by striking out Danny Poplawski on a nasty breaking ball. Nine pitches, nine strikes in the top of the first for the 21-year-old lefty.
12:25 p.m. -- Plenty of early action here. The Nats scored one in the bottom of the first, though they had a golden opportunity to do more. Xavier Paul doubled with one out, bringing up Bryce Harper with one out and a man in scoring position. Harper showed his patience (and Hoyas righty Will Harris showed his nerves) in drawing a four-pitch walk. Tyler Moore then hit what could have been an inning-ending double play, but third baseman Corbin Blakey booted the ball for an error. Harris then plunked Brett Carroll to force in a run and leave the bases loaded for Anthony Rendon ... who struck out looking in his first at-bat of spring training. Corey Brown's flyball to left ended the first. Purke then made quick work of the top of the second, with some help from his defense. Harper made a nice running catch of a line drive. Andres Blanco then made a spectacular play at shortstop before Purke did a nice job scooping up a slow roller and firing to first to end the inning. So the Nats lead 1-0 heading to the bottom of the second.
12:39 p.m. -- That's three scoreless innings for Purke, who looked pretty sharp for a guy making his first-ever spring training start (obviously, against college competition). Purke wound up allowing only one hit (the Bello double in the first) and struck out three (two of them looking). Very smooth, very efficient. Also, it bears repeating that Andres Blanco can REALLY pick it at shortstop. He's basically battling Steve Lombardozzi for the backup infielder job, and it could be an interesting decision for the Nats. Still 1-0 Nats heading to the bottom of the third.
12:43 p.m. -- And in his second AB of the spring, Bryce Harper ... bunts?! Yep, he dragged one to the right side but couldn't get it past the pitcher (right-hander Jack Vander Linden). Almost beat it out, but not quite. Tyler Moore did stroke a double to left, but Carroll struck out and then Rendon flied out to center to end the third. Still 1-0 as Rafael Martin enters from the bullpen. Purke's final line: 3 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 3 k, 32 pitches, 23 strikes.
12:53 p.m. -- First time I've ever seen Martin in person. Wow, he's got an arm. Blew away a couple of Georgetown hitters in the top of the fourth, striking out two. We go to the bottom of the fourth, still 1-0 Nats.
1:05 p.m. -- The Nats take a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth, manufacturing the run. Corey Brown drew a leadoff walk, then Eury Perez entered to pinch-run for him. Perez stole second and took third on an error by the catcher. That set the stage for Sandy Leon to loft a sac fly to center, bringing Perez home and putting the Nats up 2-0.
1:08 p.m. -- For those wondering, Matt Purke's fastball was clocked between 91-93 mph according to a Nats employee with a radar gun watching from behind the plate.
1:17 p.m. -- Tommy Isaacs can now tell his grandkids he once got Bryce Harper to fly out to right field in the fifth inning of an exhibition game at Space Coast Stadium. Pretty uneventful debut for the kid, who I assume is done for the day: 0-for-2 with a walk, a bunt groundball and that flyout. Still 2-0 after five.
1:25 p.m. -- Scoreless top of the sixth from right-hander Waldis Joaquin, keeping this a 2-0 game. Meanwhile, the Nats announced they've come to terms on 2012 contracts with 15 players who have less than three years' service time, but "renewed" the contracts for Drew Storen and Roger Bernadina. In a nutshell: Those other 15 guys actually negotiated and agreed to their salaries for this season. Storen and Bernadina asked for more and didn't get it, but they have no actual say over their salaries. So the Nats just set their salaries on their own. Nothing to get worried about, this happens often (and if I remember correctly, the same thing happened to Ryan Zimmerman years ago).
1:45 p.m. -- Seventh-inning stretch time. It's now 3-0 Nats after Zach Walters (acquired from Arizona for Jason Marquis) singled home Eury Perez (who can really fly around the bases). Joaquin tossed two scoreless innings of relief to keep the shutout intact. Not a lot of offense so far today: Four hits for the Nats, three hits for the Hoyas.
2:07 p.m. -- We go to the ninth, the Nats clinging to a 3-0 lead. Jeff Fulchino is on in search of the save. High drama in Viera.
2:16 p.m. -- That's your ballgame. Nats win 3-0. They're undefeated in 2012 ... in exhibition games against teams from the Big East who don't normally use wood bats. In all seriousness, credit to coach Pete Wilk's Hoyas, who played a pretty good game given the circumstances.