By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent
The Florida softball team made its season debut at home Tuesday, unveiling its $15 million renovation at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
After a ribbon-cutting ceremony and some pregame festivities, the Gators faced the Japan national team, ranked No. 2 in the world, and were shutout, 8-0. UF coach Tim Walton wanted to win the exhibition match despite the talent disadvantage, but the result didn’t take away from a momentous night for him and his program.
“We don’t ever come out here to get a loss,” Walton said. “To open this place up was kind of a buzzkill for us. Me being a competitor, I wanted to see us give them a little bit more of a fight than what we showed. I didn’t think we were that great. But again, they’re one of the best teams in the world. They’re going to medal in the Olympics coming up.
“It was a good experience. You really try to limit your players’ distractions, especially on game day if you can. I thought our players did a really good job of being able to come out and just take this whole thing in.”
Prior to the game, the players received a tour of the refurbished stadium and saw their new amenities for the first time. Several former players, including Kayli Kvistad, also were on hand for opening night.
“It was absolutely amazing,” said Florida’s Kelly Barnhill, who pitched three innings against Japan. “I think literally everyone’s jaw just dropped when we walked into the locker room. It feels like a really professional place. We can’t be any more thankful for everyone who made this possible, from the boosters to the donors to the girls who came before us and started the legacy we have here at Florida.”
Senior Amanda Lorenz also enjoyed seeing everyone who came out, but wanted to treat them with a W. After a 5-0 start to the regular season, Lorenz said the loss to Japan provides the Gators with some “perspective” on how much they need to improve.
“I would say our team has really shown me a lot of things about them that’s very humble,” he said. “I don’t think their bubble needed to be popped by a really good team. I don’t feel that way, but I do feel like this is a good learning curve for some of the things we were able to do.”
Florida is back at home Wednesday against UNF at 6 p.m. before another five-game road stretch in Arizona. After being shutout in the home opener, Lorenz is looking forward to another crack at it.
“I’m excited to play in front of our fans again in a ‘real’ game,” she said. “And just get to put on a show for them. Hopefully make it a little bit more entertaining and give them something to cheer for. We’re just excited to get back out here again. What a blessing it is to play in this stadium. We’re really, really thankful for it.”