For five days from March 5-9, OnlyGators.com has handed a guest editor role over to you, the loyal reader. This is the second in five Readers’ Choice posts covering topics you want to know more about concerning the Florida Gators athletics program.
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Updated following the Gators’ victories on Friday.
Florida softball, one year after winning the program’s first national title, has set a new record for hottest start in school history with 26 consecutive wins to open the 2015 campaign.
Though the Gators have outscored opponents 208-27 this season – with 12 shutouts – Florida has not achieved this mark without being put through the wringer. UF is 4-0 against teams ranked in the top three nationally with two wins over Michigan and another against Oregon, none of which occurred at home.
The Gators have four more non-conference games to play as well as an extremely tough SEC schedule, and though a loss is likely to come sooner than later, UF’s dominance to this point should not be overlooked.
In 2014, softball was the 11th of 19 Florida programs (men’s and women’s teams separated) to win a national title. This season, it could be just the seventh to win back-to-back national championships.
Building to this point for years, the Gators had long been bridesmaids – never the bride – during prior seasons in which it looked like Florida might reach the pinnacle of success in the sport. Under head coach Tim Walton, UF has only continued to get better, despite being forced to overcome its share of rather-large hurdles.
Since 2006, the Gators are 518-114 (.820) under Walton, a four-time SEC Coach of the Year who has overseen a Honda Sports Award Winner (Kelsey Bruder, 2011), SEC Female Athlete of the Year (Hannah Rogers, 2014), three SEC Players of the Year (Kristen Butler in 2006, Bruder in 2011, Michelle Moultrie in 2012) and two Women’s College World Series Outstanding Players (Moultrie in 2011, Rogers in 2014).
Getting back to 2015, Florida is almost unanimously considered the best team in the nation, hauling in 48 of 50 combined first-place votes in the two major softball polls despite accomplishing all this without Rogers, its ace from 2014.
Going forward, things may not be so smooth for UF. The Gators will play two more games against a top 25-ranked non-conference opponent (Florida State) as well as 18-of-24 league contests against top 25 teams (12-of-18 versus opponents ranked in the top 10, six of which are on the road).
So will Florida softball finish 2015 undefeated? Highly unlikely.
But the Gators are no doubt making a second-straight title the expectation around Gainesville, Florida, and the nation. And for a UF athletic program that suffered through the fall and the early part of spring with underwhelming football and basketball teams, Florida’s women are once again leading by example and providing a paradigm for what it takes to be a successful Gators program.
So there you have it, a look at what Florida softball has accomplished midway through its young season, per reader request. Be sure to check back soon for the third of five OnlyGators.com Readers’ Choice installments heading into McElwain’s introductory press conference for spring practice on March 10.