Monday February 4, 2013Florida Head Coach Tim Walton Met with the Media Monday to Preview the 2013 Season
Florida head softball coach Tim Walton met with the media Monday to preview the 2013 softball season just four days before the Gators take to the field in Tempe, Ariz., against Creighton and No. 5/6 Oregon Friday to open the Kajikawa Classic.
Coach Walton Press Conference Excerpt
“We’re looking forward to opening up the season. It’s a long road to get here, starting in August, and now we’re here,” Walton opened. “We’re excited, and the competition we open up with – Creighton and Oregon on the first day – they are two really good teams, both traditionally pitch very well. It should be a good all-around test right away. After Creighton and Oregon, the next day we have Northridge, Cal and finally Arizona, three teams in the top-15 right away. It will give us a good indication of where we need to get to and where we’re at currently.”
“We’re excited about our young players and the process they’ve been going through to get to this point. They’ve really worked hard; they’re doing well in the weight room and on the field. More than anything, the communication is starting to come together. We’ve had a lot of hard practices and we have four more to go. We’re looking forward to getting these players on the same team, in the same uniform. For some of them, putting the Florida uniform on for the first time is going to be exciting on Friday.”
The Gators, who were predicted to finish fourth in the SEC Eastern Division behind Tennessee, SEC newcomer Mizzou and Georgia, will welcome a challenge when they square off with three preseason top-15 opponents in the three-day tournament in the desert. After taking on the Jays and Ducks on opening day Feb. 8, Florida will clash with Cal State Northridge and No. 3/3 Cal Feb. 9, before wrapping up the road trip with a date against No. 13/14 Arizona Sunday, Feb. 10.
Seven of UF’s 16 roster members are newcomers, including six freshmen and junior transfer Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.), while six others are just sophomores. That puts the veteran leadership into the hands of junior two-time All-American and All-SEC hurler Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) and senior outfielder/utility players Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) and Ensley Gammel (Bakersfield, Calif.). While they may be young, the Gators aren’t lacking talent: three freshmen were ranked on ESPN’s Top 100 recruiting list, including Kansas native Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) (No. 2 overall recruit), local athlete Taylore Fuller (Trenton, Fla.) (No. 6 recruit at catcher) and Californian Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) (No. 7 recruit at catcher). Of UF’s sophomore talent, four of six athletes were named to the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2012, led by RHP/1B Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.), who also picked up NFCA All-Southeast Region First Team honors her first year on campus.
A Quick Look Back at 2012
The Gators cruised to a 48-13 overall record (21-7 SEC) for UF’s fifth-straight 20-win league campaign. The Gators finished third overall in the SEC standings. Florida played in the SEC Tournament Championship for the fifth time in program history and Walton earned career victory No. 500, becoming the fastest active coach in the SEC to reach the milestone. Led by two All-Americans (Hannah Rogers/Michelle Moultrie) and two Academic All-Americans (Michelle Moultrie/Kelsey Horton), the Gators received a NCAA Tournament bid for the 13th time in program history, hosted a Regional for the ninth time overall and eighth straight year as the No. 5 National Seed, the program’s fifth consecutive top-five seed. After an unprecedented four-consecutive WCWS trips 2008-11, the Gators were eliminated at home by USF in Regional play.
Check GatorZone.com/softball in the coming days for more information on UF’s Kajikawa opponents and a complete preview of the Gators’ season-opening road swing. Gator fans can follow all of UF’s games in Arizona on Gametracker through the UF schedule page, or by tuning the radio dial to WYGC-FM 104.9 The Game with Mike Gillespie and former Gator All-American Megan Bush.