Monday November 5, 2012Florida Softball Unveils Competitive 2013 Schedule
Four tournaments, including challenging stops in Arizona, California and two home tournaments, kick off Florida softball’s 2013 campaign which features tilts with 17 2012 NCAA Tournament teams, six of which advanced to the eight-team Women’s College World Series last season.
Under the direction of eighth-year Florida head coach and three-time SEC Coach of the Year Tim Walton, assistants Jennifer Rocha, Kenny Gajewski and volunteer assistant, former UF All-American and 2011 SEC Player of the Year Kelsey Bruder, the Gators will embark on a tough early-season schedule before entering conference play to prepare a young 2013 Florida squad for postseason-caliber competition.
“Every season we really strive to build a schedule that will challenge our team and build character early on in the season,” Walton said. “Each of our non-conference games is an opportunity for the Gators to face high-level competition and rise to the challenge in every contest. As they say, to be the best, you have to play the best; to face quality teams early in the season makes you tough before grinding through conference play and preparing for postseason competition.”
The Orange and Blue, four-time WCWS participants, will kick off the 2013 slate Feb. 8-10 at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., as the Gators return to the Grand Canyon State, home of sophomore Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.), for the first time since 2007. UF will clash with Oregon, Creighton, Northridge, Cal and Arizona in the desert before visiting in-state opponent Jacksonville (Feb. 13) for its annual February meeting.
UF will host its first of two home tournaments in the friendly confines of Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium Feb. 15-17, when it plays host to UNC Wilmington, Savannah State, Western Carolina and Charleston Southern in the five-team tourney before hitting the road to the West Coast for its annual trip to California.
The Gators won’t play SEC newcomers Missouri or Texas A&M in conference play this spring, but Florida will clash with Missouri as part of its Palm Springs Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic slate Feb. 21-23, which also includes match-ups with Loyola Marymount, Oklahoma State, Syracuse and Georgia Tech. The annual trip to the Golden State will allow four Gator student-athletes from this year’s squad to play in front of a home crowd at the Big League Dreams Sports Complex in Cathedral City, Calif.
Florida will swing back into action in the Sunshine State with a visit to Tampa for its 12th road game in a span of 20 days Feb. 27 in a tilt that will serve as the first meeting between the Gators and Bulls since USF emerged out of the Gainesville Regional last season, and eventually on to the program’s first-ever WCWS appearance.
The Orange and Blue will then play 13 of its next 20 games through the month of March in front of a home crowd at KSP Stadium in Gainesville, starting with a second home tournament March 1-3 as Drake, Mount St. Mary’s, FAMU and Presbyterian visit The Swamp.
Next up, the Gators will take to the road for a unique visit to Tuscaloosa for a one-game, mid-week, non-conference clash with SEC rival and 2012 National Champion Alabama March 6 before a three-game stint at Auburn March 8-10 to open conference play on the road at AU’s Jane B. Moore Field.
“When we saw that Alabama wasn’t on our conference schedule for 2013, both schools agreed we had to find a way to play,” Walton explained. “It’s such a great, tradition-rich series that has meant so much to the sport of softball, so we volunteered to head to Tuscaloosa for one non-conference game Wednesday during our week-long Spring Break road trip. Same with Missouri – not having Mizzou and Texas A&M on the conference schedule, we took advantage of scheduling Missouri for a non-conference game at our tournament in Palm Springs in February.”
Upon their return from the Heart of Dixie, the Gators will host four opponents through the heart of March, including Tennessee (March 15-17), USC Upstate (March 20), Arkansas (March 22-24) and FSU (March 27). The Orange and Blue will later visit Tallahassee for the home-and-away series with the Seminoles April 17.
Florida will wrap up the month of March on the road in Oxford for a three-game set with Ole Miss (March 29-31) before hosting UCF (April 3), Mississippi State (April 5-7) and a second meeting with USF (April 10) to open up the month of April at home in Gainesville.
A three-game series at Kentucky (April 12-14) and a trip to Seminole territory for the second of two games on the year against FSU (April 17) wrap up UF’s April road slate before a two-series home stand will finish out the month. The Gators entertain Longwood April 20-21 for a three-game non-conference set before playing host to what promises to be a key SEC Eastern Division series against Georgia April 26-28.
UF will wrap up the regular season slate at South Carolina May 3-5. Kentucky plays host to the 2013 SEC Tournament in Lexington May 8-11, while NCAA Regionals are set to take place May 16-19 at 16 campus sites. NCAA Super Regionals will be May 23-26 at eight campus sites and the 2013 Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City’s ASA Hall of Fame Stadium runs May 30-June 5.
Walton, who became the fastest coach in the SEC to 500 career wins last season, led the Gators to a 48-13 overall record in 2012, including a 21-7 record in Southeastern Conference play. The Gators advanced to the SEC Tournament Championship Game for the fourth time in program history, while also earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the 10th consecutive season, the 13 overall in program history. Florida hosted NCAA Regionals for the ninth time in school history and the eighth season in a row.
The Orange and Blue will wrap up the fall softball season Wed, Nov. 7, with a 5 p.m. doubleheader against Gainesville opponent Santa Fe at Pressly Stadium. Be sure to follow the Gators on Twitter @GatorZoneSBall and visit the squad’s official Facebook page for all things Florida softball.
Stay posted to www.GatorZone.com/softball as the season approaches for updated television, GatorVision and live streaming information.