Pitching Depth a Plus for Florida

Hannah Rogers was expected to see spot duty on the mound last season. Instead, she filled in for senior Stephanie Brombacher's injuries and threw the most innings for the Gators as a freshman. Rogers has help on the mound this spring. Florida has two freshmen pitchers that were All-Americans in high school and are prepared to contribute immediately.

Lauren Haeger comes to Gainesville with the ability to pitch and hit. The freshman was a member of the 2011 USA Softball Women's Junior National Team where she helped her country to a gold medal. She was also on the 2010 USA Junior National team that won gold at the Pan American Games in Colombia.

Haeger, from Peoria, Ariz., went 25-6 in her senior season while striking out 413 hitters in 208 innings with a 0.44 ERA. She set the state record for home runs in a season (21) and tied the record for home runs in her career (48).

Alyssa Bache went 25-1 with a 0.43 ERA as a senior, throwing five no hitters and recording 256 strikeouts. She posted a 0.98 ERA as a freshman in high school while putting up a 0.52 ERA as a sophomore and a 0.57 ERA as a junior.

She joins Haeger as two of the ten high school athletes up for the 2011 MaxPreps National Softball Player of the Year.

The two right-handers come to campus with plenty of credentials.

"It's very clear right away that with young players comes expectations of playing in a lot of games," Florida head coach Tim Walton said. "We're going to have to manage those expectations and try to get Alyssa (Bache) and Lauren (Haeger) in as many successful situations as we can. It's going to be tough.

"Three arms is a lot harder to manage than two arms – especially when you have three of their caliber – and then a fourth one coming back from an injury in Ensley Gammel. We've got our work cut out on that position, but I'm a firm believer that type of stuff will work itself out as the season progresses."

Hannah Rogers gives the Gators a proven starting pitcher that helped the team to the College World Series championship round last year. The right-hander went 36-8 last season with a 1.92 ERA, recording 221 strikeouts in 265.2 innings pitched.

Rogers didn't have the accolades of Bache and Haeger when she graduated from Lake Wales High School, but she the pitcher with proven success in the SEC. The competition between the three pitchers will help Walton get the best out of them all.

"That's what you want and love as a coach," Walton said. "If you bring in players of equal or greater talent than the players you already have, it should build competition amongst pitchers and players all together. I hope it does push Hannah, but I hope she also understands she's a returning All-American and she has done some great things already in her short career, and there's nothing that should change in her game. She should embrace that and teach them those things that she's already learned since she's been here."

The challenge for Walton to manage potentially four starting pitchers is made easier by Rogers' mindset. With the success she had on the mound last season, she is keeping an open mind and trusting that rest will keep her sharp for the postseason. However, it also serves as motivation.

"We all have different pitches to offer, so that should help us through the season," Rogers said. "It motivates me to work harder. Obviously they are really good pitchers and Ensley is getting better, she's going to be back and is getting stronger. She's been doing well at practice and in the bullpen. It definitely motivates me a lot."

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