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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Team USA visits Florida softball in exhibition contest

The Gators host the USWNT in its preparation for the Tokyo Olympics

<p>Kelsey Stewart batting for the Gators in February 2016. Stewart will return to Gainesville representing the Team USA softball team</p>

Kelsey Stewart batting for the Gators in February 2016. Stewart will return to Gainesville representing the Team USA softball team

Nearly 2,000 fans filled Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium when Florida hosted Team USA February 2020. 

Hey The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will limit spectators to about 500, but excitement remains the same as Team USA travels to the swamp Tuesday in another patriotic playoff against the No. 6 Gators. 

USA Softball’s roster features three former Gators in Michelle Moultrie, Kelsey Stewart and Aubree Munro. Stewart, infielder, and Munro, catcher, were members of the 2014 and 2015 National Championship teams.

In last year’s meeting, a potential upset breached the horizon during Florida’s sixth inning comeback. 

First baseman Kendyl Lindaman legged out a two-run homer and Bryn Thomas’s RBI double thinned Team USA’s lead to 3-5. The rally drew fans to the edge of their seats, but the Gators couldn’t pull out the win. 

Senior left fielder Jaimie Hoover kicked off the comeback for Florida with its first hit in the sixth inning off WNT pitcher Rachel Garcia. Garcia relieved Monica Abbott after 12 strikeouts and five perfect innings. 

“That’s the stuff that softball players only dream of,” Hoover said. “It was just a great experience to be able to face Monica Abbott, and of course, our alumni Gators.”

Florida enters the contest 17-2 after a 2-1 series win in SEC Opening Weekend against No. 9 Kentucky. 

“We have a learning opportunity in front of us and we need to go after it like that,” Walton said. “Play with confidence, play to win, play loose and just get after it.” 

A head-to-head duel with the No. 1 team in the world gives Florida a chance to flex strengths and discover weaknesses. Head coach Tim Walton treats great competition as fuel to power his team toward greater success. 

“I love it,” Walton said. “I hope our players embrace the opportunity in front of them. It’s gonna be a fun time.” 

First pitch flies at 6 p.m. and will broadcast on SEC Network+

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