Special report on the Florida Gators softball team:
GAINESVILLE – The No.7-ranked Florida softball team welcomed former Gator Greats Michelle Moultrie, Aubree Munro and Kelsey Stewartalong with the rest of the USA Softball Women’s National Team to Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium for an exhibition contest, which resulted in a 5-3 decision in favor of the Red, White and Blue.
The trio received a resounding welcome by the 1,935 fans in attendance to watch the two teams play. The group even participated in the pregame coaches meeting to exchange lineups and go over the ground rules on the field they each played on during their four memorable years with the program.
As for the game itself, fans were on the edge of their seat until the very end as the Gators were poised to upset the world’s No.1-ranked team. UF forced one of the world’s best pitchers in Monica Abbott to return to the circle in the bottom of the 7th inning with two runners on and one out.
She issued a strikeout and a walk to load the bases for junior Hannah Adams and the Hoschton, Ga. native nearly got enough on one of Abbott’s pitches to tie the game, but it stayed in the air long enough for center fielder Haylie McCleney to retrieve the final out.
Abbott started the game in the circle and Florida battled with the former Tennessee All-American for the first five innings, before the WNT called in relief pitcher and 2019 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Rachel Garcia.
Down 5-0 in the bottom of the 6th inning, Florida’s offense came alive when sophomore Cheyenne Lindsey put down a clutch bunt single down the first base line with one out. A batter later with two outs on the board, senior three-time NFCA All-American Kendyl Lindaman sent Garcia’s offering off the scoreboard in left center field to close down USA’s lead to 5-2.
The Gators continued to rally at the plate in the 7th inning, as senior Jordan Roberts started the inning with a leadoff walk against former Oklahoma standout Keilani Ricketts. A one out walk drawn by freshman Julia Cottrill from Ricketts prompted the return of Garcia to the circle to face redshirt freshman pinch-hitter Bryn Thomas.
Thomas launched the Garcia’s pitch to deep left center field to score pinch-runner E.C. Taylorfrom second base to close down the lead to 5-3.
In the end, the Gators and the Red, White and Blue both received valuable experience from the exhibition and bonded as competitors and friends to grow the game of softball.
Florida will turn around and take on UNF in regular season action Wednesday, Feb. 12, at Katie Seashole Stadium with a first pitch set for 6 p.m. The game will be streamed via SEC Network+.