Olympian effort: Gators give Team USA a game

Team USA and former Florida Gator catcher Aubree Munro high fives with pitcher Monica Abbott during an exhibition game Tuesday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

For Gators and former Gators, goals were achieved Tuesday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

 For today’s Gators, the plan heading into Tuesday’s exhibition game was to hang in there and be competitive against Team USA, make the nation’s best softball players sweat and strain a little bit.

 Goal accomplished. Easily.

 For yesterday’s Gators — Michelle Moultrie, Aubree Munro and Kelsey Stewart — the plan was to enjoy a happy and warm homecoming on their old stomping ground and end it with a win.

 Goal accomplished. Barely.

  The Gators certainly were competitive Tuesday night, and made it real interesting late with a two-run home run by Kendyl Lindaman in the sixth inning and a run-scoring double by Bryn Thomas in the seventh that put the tying run on second. But the 2020 U.S. Olympic team managed to escape for a 5-3 win.

  So, definitely respectable for the Gators. Even better than that, actually.

 “I thought we did a good job,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “I told them after the game that there’s no such thing as a moral victory, but when you play a team of that caliber, to show the confidence that we showed … all the pitchers came in and did a good job. Our defense was good. Offensively, we fought. We fought. I thought we came out there ready to play.”

 For the former Gators, it was a winning night that started with a warm and thunderous reception from the crowd of 1,935 minutes before the first pitch.

 “It was so special,” Munro said of the pregame ovation for the former players. “I can count on my one hand the amount of times I’ve felt beyond loved on a softball field. That was my Senior Day (here) and tonight. This place is so special to me. Gator Nation has always been good to me.”
It was a good night, but probably wasn’t the kind of productive night the former Gators were hoping for. The three combined to go 0-for-9 at the plate. Moultrie was 0-for-4, Munro 0-3 with a walk and a strikeout, Stewart 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout.

 The most impressive player on the night was Team USA starting pitcher Monica Abbott, who turned in a dominant five-inning performance before retiring. The Gators couldn’t touch her. She struck out the first nine batters she faced and ended up with 12 Ks, while giving up no hits.

 Abbott then came back out in the bottom of the seventh with one out and runners on second and third to save the game. She struck out Sophia Reynoso for the first out. Then, after walking Jaimie Hoover to load the bases, got Hannah Adams, the toughest out in the UF lineup, to line out to center field to end the game.

 “That’s the best I’ve ever seen her,” Walton said of Abbott’s no-hit, 13-strikeout performance.