Billy Donovan gives Florida Gators softball team a WCWS pep talk in Oklahoma City

The distance between Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators will grow with time but circumstances have kept the two linked together since his departure from the program to take over the Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA.

Not only has Donovan reached out to new Florida basketball coach Michael White on numerous occasions and taken out an advertisement in The Gaiensville Sun to thank Gators fans, he continued his support of the softball program this week in Oklahoma City.

Donovan surprised the Florida softball team Wednesday night at its hotel in his new city, giving the Gators a pep talk as they prepared for the 2015 Women’s College World Series.

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No. 1 Florida Gators softball blows past No. 8 Tennessee 7-2 in WCWS opener

No. 1 Florida Gators softball kicked off its 2014 title defense with gusto, routing the No. 8 Tennessee Lady Vols 7-2 in the opening game of the 2015 Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

Florida (56-6) scored in four of six frames with senior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger (7.0 IP, H, 2 ER, 4 K) only faltering for a brief moment in the middle a one-hit, shutout performance on Thursday.

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Florida Gators RHP Lauren Haeger named 2015 USA Softball Player of the Year

Senior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger was named the 2015 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year on Tuesday, making her the first player in Florida Gators softball history to bring home the honor, which has been awarded since 2002.

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Florida Gators softball sweeps Super Regional, will defend title in Women’s College World Series

Senior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger was dominant once again for the No. 1 Florida Gators on Sunday, sending her team to a 1-0 win over the Kentucky Wildcats in Super Regional play and to the Women’s College World Series for the third straight season.

Florida swept Kentucky 7-0 and 1-0 at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, behind Haeger’s 14.0 shutout innings. The National Player of the Year finalist has now held the Wildcats scoreless in 29.2 consecutive innings.

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Lauren Haeger leads Florida Gators softball to 7-0 rout of Kentucky in Super Regional opener

Perfect through 5.1 innings, Florida Gators senior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger mowed down the Kentucky Wildcats and led her team to a 7-0 victory on Saturday afternoon in the first game of Super Regional action at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Haeger (7.0 IP, 2 H, 6 K) retired the first 16 batters she faced before giving up a hit in the top half of the sixth inning. She responded with a solo home run to open the bottom frame, which was quickly complemented by a two-run shot from junior center fielder Kirsti Merritt (2/2, HR, 2 RBI, BB) that pushed the No. 1 Gators ahead 7-0.

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Gators softball sweeps Gainesville Regional, No. 1 Florida to host Kentucky in Super Regional

No. 1 Florida Gators softball on Sunday advanced to the Super Regional portion of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, earning a 1-0 eight-inning win over the Florida Atlantic Owls in the final game of the Gainesville Regional.

Senior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger was tremendous for the Gators throughout the regional round at Pressly Softball Stadium. Haeger not only threw an eight-inning two-hitter on Sunday in the regional finale, she was also responsible for Florida’s game-winning run, smacking an RBI double with two outs in the top of the eighth.

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Weekend Wrap: Gators swimming wins SEC title, Florida baseball bests Miami, softball undefeated

Winning a league title, earning an important series victory, maintaining a long winning streak and remaining undefeated, Florida Gators athletic programs accomplished plenty over the last weekend. Let’s take a look at all of it in the Weekend Wrap.

Thrice is nice

Florida men’s swimming captured a third-straight Southeastern Conference Championship over the weekend, using three individual event titles won in Auburn, Alabama, to catapult the program to its 36th SEC Championship.

UF (1,314.5) edged Georgia (1,134.5) and Auburn (1,084.0) for the crown with freshman Caeleb Dressel (100-yard butterfly); sophomore Mitch D’Arrigo (500-yard freestyle); and the foursome of senior Dan Wallace, junior Pawel Werner, redshirt sophomore Nicholas Alexiou and D’Arrigo (800-yard freestyle relay) bringing home individual SEC titles. The relay team set a league and school record with a time of 6:12.85.

The Gators’ women finished third but also picked up four individual titles via junior Natalie Hinds (100-yard freestyle), freshman Amelia Maughan (200-yard freestyle), redshirt freshman Theresa Michalak (200-yard individual medley) and junior Jessica Thielmann (1,650-yard freestyle). Hinds set a program mark with a time of 47.26 seconds.

In total, Florida over the weekend added automatic qualifications for 25 events in the forthcoming 2015 NCAA Championships.

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2015 Florida softball primer: Can the Gators repeat after the program’s first championship?

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 1 Florida Gators softball is poised to defend its crown following a 2014 campaign that saw the team go 55-12 with that last victory resulting in the program’s first National Championship. The Gators have already come out of the gate strong, sweeping the USF Softball Classic and routing Jacksonville on Wednesday, amassing a 6-0 record while outscoring opponents 62-7

Florida was the preseason favorite to with the Southeastern Conference title, having received 11 of 13 first-place votes from the league’s coaches, after failing to win either the regular season or tournament championship a year ago.

Head coach Tim Walton, who is now 498-114 (.813) six games into his 10th season, is confident in his roster. “We’ve got a good group, as deep a group as we’ve had,” he said. Walton no doubt hopes to roll this confidence into a return trip to Oklahoma City and ultimately a second national title in as many seasons.

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