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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Gators fall in exhibition to Team USA after offensive struggles

Tuesday’s loss left the Gators with a two loss streak to the U.S. National Team

Former Gators Michelle Moultrie, Aubree Munro and Kelsey Stewart reappeared in Gainesville with the national team Tuesday.
Former Gators Michelle Moultrie, Aubree Munro and Kelsey Stewart reappeared in Gainesville with the national team Tuesday.

Second baseman Ali Aguilar paraded up to the plate Tuesday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. 

She eyed the pitch, and belted a deep fly ball to the left-center field wall, over Cheyenne Lindsey’s and Jaimie Hoover’s heads, and drove in three.

Team USA claimed a 4-0 lead in the exhibition match.

The Washington graduate will travel across a continent and an ocean in four months to represent the stars and stripes in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. But on Tuesday, she showed the Gators, the crowd, and the rest of the world what to expect July 24 in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Former Gators Michelle Moultrie, Aubree Munro and Kelsey Stewart reappeared in Gainesville with the national team Tuesday in a game viewed as a warmup in preparation. Softball returns to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. The three finished without a hit.

Coach Tim Walton handed designated player Brynn Thomas and shortstop Kinsey Goelz their first starts of the campaign. Neither nabbed a hit, but Goelz played with her sister, freshman Avery Goelz.

“Kinsey brought a different energy tonight,” Walton said. “She brought some fight at the plate, and she is going to start tomorrow night.”

In the circle, Walton oscillated the rotation more than usual. He awarded left-hander Rylee Trlieck the start, even though she didn’t get past the second inning. Right-hander Elizabeth Hightower entered and threw into the fifth. With one out, Walton brought in freshman Haley Pittman for her first collegiate appearance.

The left-hander struggled as she walked two batters. Walton switched to right-hander Natalie Lugo, who struck out infielder Janie Reed before conceding the double to Aguilar.

Pittman gained valuable experience going against the top-ranked team in the world, Walton said.

“Our pitching has been doing so well that Trlieck and Pittman haven’t had the opportunity to pitch many innings,” Walton said. “They are both capable, and I am proud of how they both played.”

Walton stuck with Lugo until one out in the sixth when he produced his final change of the night. Lefty Katie Chronsiter entered to post the final five outs. “I’m pleased with our pitching staff,” Walton said. “We are in every single game, and eventually we are going to click on a lot of different cylinders.”

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On the other side, Florida batted against 37-year-old Cat Osterman. The lefty is unlike any opponent the Gators faced. The Texas graduate appeared in two Olympics and won three gold medals at the Pan American Games. She ranks as one of the best pitchers in the history of softball.

Her skill showed as she mowed down the UF lineup and held it to just four hits — all of them singles. Team USA head coach Ken Erikson removed Osterman in the sixth. Ally Carda finished off the Gators despite granting two walks.

Walton watched the game entirely from the dugout and commented that he liked his squad’s energy.

“We had plenty of chances, and obviously, we didn’t capitalize,” he said. “A lot of that has to with Cat and it’s probably more of them than us, but I liked our approach.”

Florida retreats to its normal schedule Wednesday night when it hosts North Dakota. First pitch will fly at 6 p.m.

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Noah Ram

Noah is a third year journalism-sports and media student from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He has been with The Alligator since Spring 2019 and has covered men’s and women’s tennis, gymnastics and volleyball. When he isn’t on his beat, Noah is usually sadden over his beloved South Florida sports teams, such as the Heat and Dolphins.

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