When Cheyenne Lindsey approached the batter’s box in the bottom of the sixth inning, there wasn’t much of an expectation. The expectation wasn’t high, it wasn’t low — it just wasn’t there.
It was the sophomore centerfielder’s first at-bat of the night. And Gator Nation hadn’t seen much of Lindsey due to a past-ACL injury that eventually needed to be surgically repaired. But if ever there was a time for Lindsey to make Gator Nation notice, this was it.
The Gators were hitless through five innings. Team USA’s pitcher Monica Abbott, a former Tennessee Volunteer, had plucked away at Florida’s batters. In the sixth inning, UCLA-alum Rachel Garcia entered the circle.
The Gators needed offense. And they needed it then and now.
Sparking the bats
On the first pitch she saw, Lindsey dropped a bunt in front of her and raced to first base — her speed concealing any ligament damage in her knee.
The Gators finally got a hit. They were finally on base.
Hannah Adams followed Lindsey’s bunt with a flyout in the middle of center field. And while Adams’ might have been out, the Gators were beginning to put the bat to the ball. And that hadn’t happened much throughout the night.
Enter Kendyl Lindaman.
The senior first baseman wasn’t having any luck at the plate. But just as Lindsey learned, if there was any time to rise to the occasion, it was then.
And with a big stroke, Lindaman punished a Rachel Garcia pitch and sent it spiraling towards the videoboard in left-center field.
With one swing, the Gators were finally on the board and Team USA’s lead was cut to three.
Seventh inning scares
Leading 5-2, Team USA looked to add some insurance runs to their score. And it looked as though they would do so easily.
Elizabeth Hightower was in the circle, becoming the fifth Gator player to assume pitching duties in the game. And quickly, after walking two batters and another reaching base after a mishandled grounder at third base, Team USA had loaded the bases with two outs.
Former-Gator Aubree Munro took to the plate, looking for her first hit of the night. And though she made contact, her hit flew on the wrong side of the third-baseline and Florida’s Charla Echols was able to make the play to get the Gators out of the jam.
All evening, Echols was able to make plays for the Gators. And her performance on Tuesday night stuck out to Kelsey Stewart, former Florida Gator and soon to be Olympian.
After Echols play on the foul, the Gators were still alive. And they needed at least three runs and had three outs to give.
After Florida’s Jordan Roberts and Julia Cottrill were able to stroll to a free base, Team USA watched as the tying runner came to bat with just one out.
The tying runner was redshirt freshman Bryn Thomas. Like Lindsey, she would be watching her first pitches of the night come whirring towards her. And though Garcia’s pitch came towards her, it didn’t make it past her.
Instead, Thomas cracked a two-bagger into score pinch-runner E.C. Taylor. The Gators also had two runners in scoring position in Hannah Sipos (PR) and Jade Caraway (PR).
Now, Team USA was beginning to sweat.
Return of the ace
Now, with the winning-run coming to bat, Team USA made their third and final pitching change. Instead of a new face, 34-year-old Monica Abbott returned to the rubber.
With fifth-year senior Sophia Reynoso chasing her pitches, Abbott recorded her 13th strikeout. She faced 19 batters on 18 at-bats on Tuesday night.
Now, it all came down to junior Hannah Adams. The Gators had two outs and Adams was in the midst of a full count. Lindsey sparked Florida’s offense. But could Adams blow the doors off of Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium?
She nearly did.
And when I say nearly, it was very, very close. All the ball had to do was drop.
With all 1,935 fans in attendance on their feet, Adams cracked the ball across the middle of field. It had some snow on it. It wasn’t a line-drive, but it wasn’t a pop-up, either. The lob-ish hit made it’s way just over the line where the turf meets the dirt. And Team USA’s centerfielder had to make a quick adjustment to get to it.
All it had to do was drop. But it never did.
As all baserunners continued to round the bases in case of the unlikely drop, Team USA’s centerfielder made the squeeze and the Gators dropped Tuesday’s exhibition match against Team USA 5-3.
— Gators Softball (@GatorsSB) February 12, 2020
The Gators return to action on Wednesday night at 6 as they host UNF.
In the hole:
Florida’s first double-header at home comes on Friday night. The Gators host South Dakota State at 4:30 p.m. and Longwood at 7 p.m.