- Jennifer Rocha
Assistant Coach – 10th season at Florida
- 17th season as assistant coach
- Oklahoma ‘98
Jennifer Rocha has made a name for herself as one of the top pitching instructors in the country. In her 10 seasons at Florida, Rocha has tutored five All-American hurlers in Stephanie Brombacher, Stacey Nelson, Hannah Rogers, Lauren Haeger and Aleshia Ocasio. In two of the last eight years, the Gators have turned in the top team ERA in the country and the 2015 national championship season kept the bar high as Florida posted the top ERA in the SEC (1.63) for the third consecutive year, a figure that ranked fourth in the nation.
After tutoring both Nelson, Brombacher and Rogers to successful careers in Orange and Blue, Rocha led Haeger to becoming the best pitcher in the country in 2015.
After being a 2012 and 2014 NFCA All-Southeast Region First Team selection and 2013 NFCA All-America pick, Haeger boasted a modest 41-10 record in the circle, including a 10-9 record against top-25 opponents.
She was just getting warmed up.
During her senior season, not only did Haeger lead the Gators to their second-straight NCAA Championship but the Peoria, Ariz., product became the first Gator to win the USA National Player of the Year award, third to be named the WCWS Most Outstanding Player and second to garner softball’s Honda Award. In addition, she was named the SEC Female Athlete of the Year and Pitcher of the Year.
In the circle, Haeger assembled a 32-2 record with a 1.23 earned run average after beginning the year with 24 consecutive victories to mark the best start to a campaign in Gator history.
Also in 2015, Rocha coached rookie Aleshia Ocasio to third team All-America honors, becoming the second freshman in Gator history to achieve that honor. In addition, Ocasio became the fourth Gator freshman in five years with 100+ strikeouts.
The first Gator rookie to earn All-America accolades was Rogers, who led Florida to its first NCAA title in 2014. The Lake Wales, Fla., native earned second-team All-America honors in 2011 after she shattered freshman records for wins, starts, complete games, shutouts, strikeouts, appearances and innings pitched. She became UF’s second-ever freshman All-American and the first Florida pitcher to garner the accolade. Rogers led the Gators to their first national title in 2014, and in the process became Florida’s first four-time All-American.
Rogers was at her best on the biggest stage, as she compiled a 7-0 record with seven complete games (six shutouts) in eight NCAA Tournament appearances (seven starts), with a save in the championship-clinching victory over Alabama. Rogers finished her career with 127 victories, a figure that ranks second in Florida history (Stacey Nelson – 136) and made her the NCAA active career leader when she finished her tenure for the Orange and Blue.
Rocha will next go to work in 2015 with incoming freshman Kelly Barnhill, the No. 2 overall recruit and the No. 1 pitching prospect in the 2015 class by FullCountSoftball.com, three-time Pope High School MVP and the Georgia single-season strickout record holder with 534 K.
Along with Barnhill and Ocasio, Delanie Gourley will round out the Gators pitching staff for the 2016 season. This past season, Gourley earned five saves for UF after transitioning to a relief role on April 12. She earned fifth and final save of the season in Game 1 of the Women’s College World Series Championship Series in Game 1 against Michigan. The southpaw went 10-2 on the year with four wins over ranked opponents.
In 2008 under Rocha’s watch, Florida set a then-program-best 0.92 ERA for the second-lowest ERA in the nation and in 2009, UF’s 0.69 ERA was the lowest in the nation, the Southeastern Conference and the Florida record book.
The 2008 and 2009 seasons were record-breaking years for the pitching staff. In 2008, 34 UF pitching records were broken, including 15 team records. Rocha’s pitchers earned the top spot in program annals for wins (70) and tied for innings pitched (512.1). In 2009, the Gator staff broke 24 records, including 12 team records, such as ERA (0.69), strikeouts (547), shutouts (39) and hits allowed (250).
In 2010, Rocha coached a young pitching staff to the second-best ERA (2.20) in the SEC. UF allowed the second-fewest runs and earned runs in the league, Brombacher led the SEC in wins (35). Under Rocha, Brombacher tossed the fourth perfect game in UF history in 2010 and returned with her second perfect contest to kick off her senior season in 2011.
Pitchers under Rocha’s tutelage grace many pages of the Florida record books. Nelson, the first pitcher in UF history to earn multiple All-American accolades (2007, 2008, 2009), holds 15 career pitching records and is on 12 other top-10 career lists. A four-year student under Rocha, Nelson left Florida with the lowest career ERA (0.99) and most strikeouts (1,116). She also tallied the most wins (136) in Florida history, among other records.
In 2008, Nelson garnered ESPN The Magazine First-Team Academic All-America honors, becoming the first player in school history to earn both All-America and Academic All-America honors in the same season. She then repeated the feat as a senior. Nelson was also named SEC Pitcher of the Year and NFCA All-Southeast Region first team in 2008 and 2009.
Brombacher ranks third all-time for fewest walks allowed (1.78 per 7 innings) and second in strikeouts per seven innings (7.05) after her four years of suiting up in the Orange and Blue. She holds the highest winning percentage in UF history as she went 42-0 record in her first two seasons, 35-8 her junior year and 20-3 her senior year in 2011 for a 97-11 (.898) overall record. Brombacher was a two-time All-SEC selection, and garnered NFCA All-Southeast and All-American honors in 2009 and 2010. She was also the only sophomore on the ESPN The Magazine/Capital One Academic All-District III first team and the first Gator sophomore to be an Academic All-American. She earned repeat honors as a junior and senior with Academic All-American and District III honors.
In 2007, then-senior Stacey Stevens, with two season pitching under Rocha, finished her career as the program leader in nine categories including wins (74), strikeouts (624) and strikeouts looking (186), now ranking third in all three categories.
Rocha came to Florida and took a veteran junior pitcher and two freshmen and worked them into a confident and experienced staff able to help the Gators to wins over some of the nation’s top ranked teams. With Rocha’s guidance, Nelson set several Florida freshman records, while earning SEC All-Freshman team honors. She also led the Gators to their first-ever win over a No. 1 team, as she recorded the win over defending national champion Michigan. Stevens led the pitching staff in several categories and put herself in position to break many school records in her final season.
Rocha made the trip to Gainesville with head coach Tim Walton, as the two have worked together for a decade. Under Rocha, the Wichita State pitching staff set several school records and posted an earned run average of under 2.00 in back-to-back seasons. Their 1.46 ERA in 2004 was the lowest in program history. The pitching staff struck out over 400 batters in each Rocha’s final two seasons, with one individual recording over 200. In 2005, the Shockers’ top pitchers registered records of 20-8 and 22-8 and each had a 1.52 ERA in 202.1 and 180.0 innings pitched.
“Jennifer is a great pitching coach,” Walton said. “She has a calm, collected presence about her. She is a good teacher, as well as a good game-day coach.”
Rocha was an assistant coach at Oregon for a year before going to WSU. She began her coaching career as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma in 1999.
Rocha is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and played for the Sooners from 1996 through 1998. During her time as both a player and a coach, Rocha was a part of six consecutive NCAA Regional appearances, three Big 12 Conference titles, two Big 12 Tournament titles, two WCWS appearances and one national championship. She finished her playing career with a .721 winning percentage (43-17) and posted a 1.46 ERA.
Prior to arriving at Oklahoma, Rocha played for Long Beach City College (LBCC) softball team for one season. She earned California Junior College Athletic Association (CJCAA) All-American honors in 1995 after leading LBCC to the California State Championship. She posted a 24-0 record and a 0.42 ERA while at LBCC.
Rocha earned a degree in sociology from Oklahoma in 1999 and her master’s in human relations in 2001.
The former Jennifer Jaime married Paul Rocha in November 2006. The couple resides in Gainesville.
THE ROCHA FILE