Florida Softball Will Return Plenty of Talent

A young team went through the 2012 season and did exactly what young teams do. They were inconsistent. At times, the Gators showed flashes of the young talent on the roster. The youth also could go into hitting slumps. The injury to Brittany Schutte and the late suspension of three players kept the Florida season from a fifth straight College World Series, but the future roster remains strong.

The season likely wouldn't have ended in the fashion it did if the three suspensions never happened. Reports surfaced on Friday afternoon that three starters—shortstop Cheyenne Coyle, right fielder Kasey Fagan and third baseman Sami Fagan—wouldn't play in the opener of the Gainesville Regional.

Florida head coach Tim Walton said after Florida dropped the opener to Florida Gulf Coast that the three would be suspended for the remainder of the season, and the Fagans' father has since told the Gainesville Sun that the trio wouldn't be returning to play at Florida in the future.

While the reason for the suspension wasn't disclosed by Walton, the Florid head coach thinks he learned a lot during the 2012 season.

"It's a lesson for everybody," Walton said after Sunday's season-ending loss to USF. ‘It's a lesson for me as a parent; it's a lesson for me as a coach. It's a less for our players, our staff and our coaches. At the end of the day, as a coach, I try to do the best job I can do possible and gathering everything I can do to be a good leader and try to be as consistent as possible.

"It's all about the Gators, the brand that Jeremy Foley has created and what we're going to do."

That begins this offseason with a roster that brings back a lot of familiar faces. The only graduating senior is a big one—All-American center fielder Michelle Moultrie— that leaves Florida and will play for Team USA this summer.

Besides the three suspended players and Moultrie, the remaining roster is expected to return next season. That includes a trio of pitchers—sophomore Hannah Rogers (28-8, 1.23), freshman Lauren Haeger (15-5, 1.85) and freshman Alyssa Bache (5-0, 1.39)—that will anchor the Gators on the mound.

The questions will come in the offense. Sami Fagan would have the highest returning batting average at .378, but that now falls to Kelsey Horton at .329.

The middle of the order should have plenty of power. Horton, Haeger and Schutte provide plenty of thump as Horton and Haeger combined for 27 home runs while Schutte hit three and batted .396 in 21 games played this season.

Bailey Castro contributed six home runs but will need to improve her batting average from the .207 she contributed as a freshman.

The sense of optimism Walton has centers on the youth of his offense. Haeger was an immediate impact bat and Castro showed flashes, but a strong offense should help the middle of the order produce more runs.

"I'd always like to say that young players get better and hopefully their swings get better and everything they do from a maturity standpoint will get better," Walton said.

"We've got a lot of things to do—a lot of adjustments to make, plans to redesign and hopefully get our program back to where it needs to be."

The Gators will bring in five freshmen next three, including three from Florida and one from California and Kansas. Two were listed as catchers and three were listed as utility players.

"We've got a big task ahead of us," Walton said. "Everybody comes back except Michelle, and we're bringing in five kids that have already signed with us.

"We're excited about the opportunity to keep getting better. That's the goal, no matter where you're at. You've got to keep getting better."

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