Tim Walton has established the Gator Softball program as a national powerhouse during his nine seasons in Gainesville. Under Walton’s tutelage, Florida became the first Southeastern Conference institution in history to earn four consecutive Women’s College World Series berths (2008-11). The Orange and Blue have made a total of six WCWS appearances since Walton’s arrival in 2006, with three championship series appearances and the program’s first national title in 2014.
Tim Walton interviewed on The Fastpitch TV Show
Produced By Gary Leland
Walton reached a career milestone when he earned career win No. 600 in just his 12th season as a head coach in 2014. Coming in his 774th game as a head coach, the Gators used an 8-0 mercy-rule victory at SEC rival Texas A&M to complete a three-game sweep on Easter Sunday. The win made Walton the fastest active head coach in the Southeastern Conference to reach 600 lifetime victories.
Tim Walton enters his 10th season at Florida with a 492-114 (.812) record at the head of the Gator program and a 615-178 (.776) career record in 12 seasons as a head coach. Florida has six 50-win seasons in program history, all under Walton.
In his nine years at Florida, Walton has led the Orange and Blue to countless school and SEC records, and his squads have earned numerous firsts for the Gator softball program. In 2011, UF advanced to an unprecedented fourth straight Women’s College World Series, including its second trip to the Championship Series. Working as a four-time SEC Coach of the Year, Walton has led the Gators to three SEC regular-season and tournament titles. UF has made the NCAA Tournament every year of his tenure, hosted Regionals all nine times and played host to NCAA Super Regionals six times from 2008-14. Florida reached the pinnacle of college softball in 2014, capturing the national championship with a two-game sweep of Southeastern Conference rival Alabama in the finals.
On the softball diamond, Tim Walton has tutored 13 Florida student-athletes to 26 NFCA All-America honors, 18 players to 40 NFCA All-Southeast Region honors, has produced 14 WCWS All-Tournament team selections (including two Most Outstanding Players), coached 18 Gator athletes to 38 All-SEC honors and racked up 17 SEC All-Tournament team honors, including three MVPs, two SEC Pitchers of the Year and three SEC Players of the Year. Most recently, Gators Michelle Moultrie (2012) and Kelsey Bruder (2011) picked up back-to-back SEC Player of the Year accolades, becoming UF’s third and fourth overall SEC Player of the Year honorees in program history. Additionally, Bruder brought home the 2011 Honda Sports Award, designating her as the nation’s top collegiate female athlete in the sport of softball, and shortly after was awarded the NCAA Today’s Top VIII Award as one of the top eight NCAA athletes in the country during the 2010-11 school year. Under Walton’s direction, the Florida coaching staff has earned NFCA Southeast Regional Coaching Staff of the Year honors four times and the team was one of Easton’s Teams of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Under Walton’s watch, the Gators have shattered 343 University of Florida records since 2006, including 24 during the 2014 national championship season. His 2008 squad recorded an NCAA-record 70 wins and posted the best SEC record in league history at 27-1. The Orange and Blue shattered its own SEC single-season walks record with 332 in 2013, while the Gators’ .979 fielding percentage ranked sixth in league annals. Florida’s 2011 squad downed eight SEC records, including four team season records for runs (508), RBI (479) and walks (322), while extending its standing single-season homers record to 124. The 2012 Gator squad set the league record for slugging percentage (.627), while the 2009 Gators became only the second team to ever register a perfect conference road record (13-0).
The Orange and Blue reached the pinnacle of college softball in 2014 when they swept five games at the WCWS to win UF’s first national championship. Florida compiled a 10-1 record as the No. 5 National Seed in the NCAA Tournament, with the only loss coming in Game 2 of the Super Regional against Washington. The Gators shut out Florida A&M, Stetson and UCF by a combined score of 29-0 to win the Gainesville Regional as Delanie Gourley, Hannah Rogers and Lauren Haeger each pitched a complete game to blank the three Sunshine State opponents. Gourley pitched a no-hitter against the Rattlers, marking the Gators’ first-ever postseason “no-no.” The next weekend, Florida run-ruled Washington in Games 1 and 3 of the Super Regional. After two lengthy rain delays, Kirsti Merritt launched a three-run walkoff home run in the third contest to send the Gators to Oklahoma City for the sixth time in seven years. At the WCWS, the UF defense turned a WCWS-record seven double plays, and Rogers pitched three straight shutouts against Baylor (twice) and top-ranked Oregon to set up a championship series clash with SEC rival Alabama. Florida’s senior right-hander blanked the Tide in Game 1 before all three pitchers contributed in the clincher, with Gourley earning the win in relief of Haeger and Rogers recording the save to lock up WCWS Most Outstanding Player honors and bring home the national title. During the championship season, the Gators set school records for on-base percentage (.439), stolen-base percentage (.892), fewest errors (T-1st, 40) and double plays (28).
Six Gators were named to the NFCA All-Southeast Region teams, highlighted by Lauren Haeger’s First Team selection; in addition, Hannah Rogers, Taylor Schwarz, Kelsey Stewart and Stephanie Tofft made the Second Team, while Kirsti Merritt was a Third Team choice. Stewart (First Team) and Rogers (Third Team) went on to earn All-America honors, with Rogers becoming Florida Softball’s first-ever four-time All-American. The Orange and Blue ranked among the national leaders in fielding (third, .978), runs per game (fourth, 6.91), winning percentage (seventh, .821), home runs per game (seventh, 1.33), slugging percentage (seventh, .528), ERA (15th, 1.96), and stolen bases per game (19th, 1.73). Individually, Haeger ranked sixth in the country in home runs (20), while Rogers finished tied for sixth in shutouts (12) and ninth in wins (30), and Stewart was tied for sixth in triples (six) and 19th in hitting (.438). The Gators led the SEC in wins (55), runs scored (463), RBI (433), on-base percentage (.439), total bases (913), walks (321), steals (115), ERA and opponent’s batting average (.196). Florida finished the year 22-11 against ranked opponents, including a 15-5 record against Top-25 foes after the calendar turned to April.
Walton picked up his fourth SEC Coach of the Year honor in 2013 after leading a young Gators squad to both the SEC regular-season and tournament titles en route to their fifth appearance at the WCWS in the last six years. UF played one of the most exciting WCWS games in history – a 15-inning thrilling victory against Nebraska – and finished the season ranked No. 5 in both national polls. Florida drew the largest home attendance in school history when 2,443 Orange and Blue faithful filled KSP Stadium for the showdown between the Gators and Noles, a game UF won, 7-3, in eight innings thanks to a walk-off grand slam from Briana Little. Florida paced the country with 58 wins, going 58-9, including 18-6 in Southeastern Conference play. Florida shattered its own SEC record for single-season walks (332), while downing 25 school records through the campaign. The Orange and Blue ranked second in the country in win-loss percentage (.866), fourth in fielding percentage (.979), seventh in triples per game (0.33), 11th in both ERA (1.83) and scoring (6.46) and 14th in the NCAA with 1.25 home runs per game.
The Gators earned the No. 2 National Seed, the sixth-straight national seed for UF and the third top-three tournament seed in school history. Five Florida student-athletes were named NFCA All-Southeast Region Team members, with Lauren Haeger and Hannah Rogers representing on the First Team, both also named NFCA 2013 All-Americans, while Kelsey Horton, Kelsey Stewart and Stephanie Tofft were NFCA All-Southeast Region Second Team honorees. Freshman Kirsti Merritt became the first SEC Tournament MVP as one of UF’s four SEC All-Tournament Team members alongside fellow freshmen Taylor Schwarz, Stewart and Tofft. Florida owned a 17-6 record against Top-25 opponents in 2013 and led the SEC in 14 categories, including wins (58), runs (43), walks (332), ERA (1.83) and ranked second in fielding percentage (.979).
The 2012 season was the end of an era for the two-time Gator All-American and Academic All-American Moultrie, who went out with a bang as the 2012 SEC Player of the Year and a finalist for two major college softball awards – the 2012 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award and USA Softball’s Player of the Year Award. Moultrie helped lead the Gators to a 48-13 overall record and a 21-7 record in SEC play for UF’s fifth-straight 20-win league campaign in school history. UF ranked seventh in the country in ERA (1.46), ninth in win-loss percentage (.787) and 15th in the nation in slugging percentage (.482). The Gators finished third in the league through the regular-season slate and advanced to the SEC Tournament Championship Game for just the fifth time in program history, the third under Walton’s tutelage, as UF’s victory over Tennessee propelled them to not only the league tourney championship game, but gave Walton his 500th career victory as a head coach.
The Orange and Blue received a NCAA Tournament bid for the 13th time in school history and the 10th straight season, as the Gators picked up the No. 5 national seed, their fifth consecutive top-five seed, and hosted a NCAA Regional for the ninth time in program history, the eighth consecutive year. UF boasted two All-Americans in Moultrie and Hannah Rogers, while Kelsey Horton and Lauren Haeger were NFCA All-Southeast Region selections. Moultrie and Horton also reeled in 2012 Academic All-America nods. The Gators had three All-SEC selections: Horton, Moultrie and Rogers, and school-record tying four All-SEC Freshman honorees. Florida set or tied eight school records through the 2012 season as Moultrie put her mark on three alone, including career batting average (.385) and career stolen bases (83) and attempts (99). Moultrie, Florida’s lone senior, compiled the second-best senior class win percentage in the country, finishing her tenure 216-41 (.840) throughout her four years on campus. The 2012 Gators paced the league in ERA (1.44) and saves (8) and ranked second in the SEC in slugging percentage (.482), on-base percentage (.396), RBI (296), homers (68) and fielding percentage (.974).
Florida finished 2011 as the No. 2 team in the country and the national runners up behind the success of a 56-13 (.811) overall record, led by the winningest class of seniors in school history. SEC Player of the Year Kelsey Bruder, Stephanie Brombacher, Megan Bush, Tiffany DeFelice and Aja Paculba put on a dominating four-year performance and concluded their careers boasting a 238-33 (.878) overall record and a 94-13 (.878) record in SEC play as UF tallied its fourth 50-win season in school history. UF paced the nation in Academic All-Americans, with four, and boasted a nation-leading six All-Americans and Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-Southeast Region selections, the most possible for a single institution, to accompany seven All-SEC honorees, including two SEC All-Defensive team members. The 2011 Gators jumped out of the gates with a 24-0 start, the best in school history, and worked their way to a fourth straight SEC Eastern Division title, the fifth in Gator history, compiling a 21-7 league mark. The Gators downed more than 40 University of Florida single-season, game and career records en route to a fourth WCWS appearance in Oklahoma City, where Cheyenne Coyle, Brittany Schutte and Bruder earned WCWS All-Tournament Team honors along with Moultrie, who was named the WCWS Most Outstanding Player.
Statistically, Florida turned in a nation-leading performance in 2011, checking in at first in the country in home runs per game (1.8) and second in slugging percentage (.588). The Gators’ 124 homers ranks fourth all-time in NCAA history and their 508 runs check in at sixth in the NCAA record books. UF paced the SEC in wins (56), slugging percentage (.588), runs (508), hits (573), RBI (479), home runs (124) and walks (322). A freshman in 2011, Rogers ranked third in the NCAA in wins (36), second among freshmen, while Schutte turned in 22 homers to rank third in the NCAA. Bush, the UF and SEC career home runs leader (65), ranked fifth in the country with her 21 bombs in 2011 and first with nine sacrifice flies.
Walton’s 2010 Gators finished 49-10 with a .831 winning percentage, fourth best in the country. They made the WCWS for the third straight year, were the fourth seed in the NCAA Tournament, garnering a top-five seed for the third straight year, while reaching the quarterfinals of the 2010 WCWS in Oklahoma City. Florida finished the season ranked sixth in both the USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball polls. The Gators went 20-4 in the SEC, placing second overall and first in the East Division. The 2010 squad set 28 school records, including nine single-game records and seven single-season records. As a power-hitting team, Florida set records for runs (22), hits (21), RBIs (20) and home runs (six, twice) in a game while breaking the school record for batting average (.331), runs (433), RBIs (402), total bases (936) and on-base percentage (.432). While topping the SEC record book for slugging percentage (.627), they ranked second in the nation for the power-hitting percentage while averaging 7.34 runs per game. Their 109 home runs and 1.85 homers per game ranked third in the country. Seven different Gators hit 10 grand slams, the second most in program history, while six UF batters hit home runs nine times in the same game over the 2010 season. The Gators led the SEC in batting average and ranked second in ERA (2.20), on-base percentage, runs, RBIs and total bases, while playing between two and five games fewer than other top conference teams. Walton coached Florida past the 600-win mark in program history while his players garnered two All-Americans honors, five NFCA all-Southeast Region selections, five All-SEC honors, three SEC Freshman team awards, one SEC All-Defensive team selection, two SEC All-Tournament team nods and one WCWS All-Tournament team selection.
The 2009 season brought new accomplishments and challenges for Walton’s Gators. Their .926 (63-5) winning percentage was the best in the country, as was their 0.69 ERA. Florida garnered the program’s first-ever preseason No. 1 ranking in both the USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball polls and returned to the top spot for 12 weeks, including three where they tallied unanimous first-place votes. The Orange and Blue then earned the No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament and for the second time in program history, Florida punched its ticket to the WCWS in Oklahoma City. UF soared to new heights with its first-ever berth in the championship series, going 8-0 in games leading to the showdown. The No. 2 final ranking was the highest in the program’s history to that point.
Walton led the ’09 team as it broke or tied 61 school records, including the two conference records. The Gators went 15-0 on the road and recorded only two home losses. They captured the SEC regular-season and tournament titles and set the country’s longest win streak of the season at 29 games. In all, Walton coached five All-Americans, six NFCA All-Southeast Region selections, seven All-SEC honorees, the most in Florida history, two SEC Freshman team selections, four SEC All-Defensive team members, four SEC All-Tournament team members, including the tournament’s MVP, two WCWS All-Tournament team members and the SEC Pitcher of the Year as Stacey Nelson repeated the accomplishment, all while earning his second SEC Coach of the Year award.
Walton set a few milestones of his own during the 2009 season, reaching 300 career wins on Feb. 27 with a 10-5 victory over Pacific in the Gators’ sweep of the Cox Invitational. He also became the winningest coach in Florida’s history when he tallied his 193rd victory on March 21 as the Gators downed Tennessee, 7-0. Walton surpassed former coach Karen Johns’ (2001-05) previous high (192) in 76 fewer games. In the 11-2 win over Mississippi State on April 4, Walton became the first coach in program history to amass 200 wins.
Walton’s third season was the true turning point for Florida softball, as the team racked up the NCAA-record 70 wins and set many firsts for the program. The 2008 squad was the first team in school history to reach the WCWS and finished 3-2 in their first appearance, notching a spot in the semifinals. The ’08 Gators were also the first UF softball team to host a Super Regional, garnering the program’s first-ever No. 1 seed. UF took the SEC Tournament Championship for the first time as the Gators defeated Alabama, 4-1, in the title game. They also captured the SEC title for the second time in program history with their 27-1 record, the best winning percentage (.964) and most conference wins in SEC history.
The 2008 season also saw the program’s first No. 1 ranking while the team broke or tied 72 school records through the course of the year. The Gators tallied a program-high 37-game win streak and a 41-game home win streak, which spanned the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Walton also coached a school-record five players to Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-Southeast Region accolades and All-America honors. He also earned SEC Coach of the Year honors while coaching four All-SEC players, four SEC All-Defensive team members, four All-SEC Freshmen team members and the SEC Pitcher of the Year.
In Walton’s second season, the Gators claimed the school’s first 50-win (50-22) season and a NCAA Super Regional appearance. Florida also advanced to the SEC Tournament Championship game in 2007 for the first time since the inaugural 1997 season. In addition, two Gators earned Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-Southeast Region honors, as well as All-America accolades, becoming only the second and third players in program history to earn the high honor, with Kim Waleszonia being the first position player named to an All-America team. As a team, the Gators set 59 school records.
In his first season, Walton led the Gators to a 43-25 overall record, making him the winningest first-year head coach in program history. The 43 wins were the most by the Gators since 2000 and the .632 winning percentage was the second-best in program history. Walton led the Gators to set 26 school records. Four individuals were named to All-SEC teams, a then program high, and senior Kristen Butler became only the second Gator to earn SEC Player of the Year honors. The Gators tallied another first when they defeated a No.1-ranked team for the first time ever, beating defending national champion Michigan, 3-2, on Feb. 18, 2006.
The third head coach in the history of the Gator program, Walton came to Florida from Wichita State University, where he had been the head coach for three seasons. In 2005, Walton led the Shockers to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 16 years as they earned the first at-large bid in school history. Wichita State finished the 2005 season with a school record 46-18 record and broke 30 school records in the process.
Walton began his tenure at Wichita State with a bang in 2003. The team put together one of the best turnarounds in the nation that year, improving its 2002 record by 18 wins to a 39-20 overall record. The Shockers’ 39 wins was a school record at that point. Under Walton’s watch, Wichita State ranked among the top 30 in the nation for ERA and fielding percentage, including the fifth-best fielding percentage in 2005 (.977).
Walton has been a part of national championship teams as a baseball player, an assistant softball coach and a head softball coach. Before heading to Wichita, Walton served as an assistant softball coach for the University of Oklahoma, as the hitting coach and outfielders coach. In his four seasons at OU, the Sooners won three Big 12 titles and made three consecutive WCWS appearances, including winning the 2000 NCAA title.
Walton played baseball for two years at Cerritos Junior College in his home town of Cerritos, Calif., before transferring to Oklahoma. Walton made two trips to the College World Series as part of the Sooners pitching staff, earning the win in the 1994 national title game in a 13-5 OU victory over Georgia Tech.
As a head coach, Walton stresses academics and community involvement with his teams, as well as on-field performance. Since arriving in Gainesville, Walton has engaged his teams in the community through Shands Hospital, March of Dimes, Climb for Cancer, Habitat for Humanity, the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academies, Ronald McDonald House and Friends of Jaclyn, among other activities. In 2009, the Gators held the inaugural “Gators Swing for Cancer” event, which annually raises money and creates awareness for a number of different Shands hospital-affiliated charities. The Gators were awarded both the 2010 and 2011 UF Life Skills Cups for having the most community service hours of any Gator athletic team in back-to-back years.
In the classroom, Tim Walton stresses the importance of academic success, and since his arrival in Gainesville, the Gators have placed a strong emphasis on their work in the classroom. In the summer of 2012, the University of Florida softball program received public recognition from the NCAA as one of 30 Division I women’s softball program’s to post multiple-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores in the top-10 percent of all softball teams across the nation. Florida was one of just two Southeastern Conference softball programs to be honored by the NCAA for the four-year period ending in the 2010-11 academic year. The Gators struck again in the summer of 2013, and for the second consecutive year earned public recognition from the NCAA for multiple-year APR success. Florida was the only Southeastern Conference institution recognized for the 2011-12 academic year. 2014 brought a third straight APR recognition, as the Gators were one of two SEC schools to earn the distinction.
In 2009, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association announced the Gators had the fifth highest GPA in the country with a 3.49 cumulative team GPA, its highest in program history thanks to a 3.53 fall average – the highest of any UF sport – and five individual 4.0s. Since Walton took over the helm of the Gator softball program in 2006, 47 Gators have earned 82 SEC Academic Honor Roll accolades, 33 freshmen have been named to the SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll, 11 players have been named Capital One Academic All-District selections 21 times and eight UF softball student-athletes have picked up 13 Capital One Academic All-America honors. The Gators have turned in one of the nation’s top 16 GPAs in four years under Walton, while ranking in the top 30 among Division I programs two times. UF softball has a 100 percent graduation success rate for those student-athletes who started college in 2006, as calculated by the NCAA and released Oct. 25, 2013. The Gators were one of four Florida athletic teams to post a 100 percent GSR (also: volleyball and women’s basketball).
“The importance of academic and community involvement stresses life after softball,” Walton said. “These student-athletes are going to be part of a community – it helps them learn what it takes to be good people. Being a student-athlete at the University of Florida makes you a role model. We want our team to be involved in the community and perform in the classroom to show young people that playing athletics in college is about more than what they do on the field.”
In addition to his impact on the college softball, Walton’s success has trickled to the national level as a school-record four Gators accepted invitations to participate in USA Softball’s 2011 Women’s National Team Selection Camp, two of which were named to the Women’s National Team – Moultrie and Schutte – and represented Florida and Team USA in 2011. Moultrie and Schutte reeled in the 2011 World Cup of Softball VI gold medal with the national team, and Moultrie went on to lead Team USA to a Pan American Games gold medal in October 2011 before making the Women’s National Team roster again in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Three 2011-12 underclassmen in Cheyenne Coyle, Jessica Damico and Haeger were members of the US Women’s Junior National Team which contributed to Team USA’s gold medal at the IX ISF Junior Women’s World Championship in Cape Town, South Africa, in December 2011. Haeger tossed the Junior World Championship Gold Medal Game, allowing just five hits, while fanning eight batters – including the last two – as Team USA defeated Japan to win its second consecutive Junior World Championship.
In July 2013, infielder Kelsey Stewart helped lead the Red, White & Blue Junior Women’s National Team to a silver medal at the ISF X Jr. Women’s World Championship, where Team USA squared off with Japan in the gold-medal game. Stewart batted .450 for Team USA with seven runs scored, four RBI and three triples.
Stewart was invited to the selection camp in 2014, and the rising junior was named to the 2014 USA Softball Women’s National Team. Stewart is the fourth Gator to wear the Red, White and Blue at the senior level, joining Moultrie (2011-14), Schutte (2012) and Gator pitching standout Stacey Nelson (2009).
Walton additionally hit the national softball coaching scene in 2010 when he was honored by the USSSA Pride of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) professional softball league by being named head coach of the Florida Pride (Orlando). Walton led the Pride to the 2010 NPF Championship title – the championship victory and NPF trophy was the first ever in Florida Pride history. Walton’s 2011 squad won the 2011 regular-season title en route to the runner-up spot at the NPF Championship, while the coaching staff earned 2011 Coaching Staff of the Year honors.
In further recognition of his abilities as a coach and leader of student-athletes, USA Softball announced that Walton is one of 25 coaches in the 2015-16 Women’s National Team Coaching Pool. The coaches selected from this group will lead Team USA at the 2015 Pan American Games and the XV ISF World Championships in 216, in addition to a series of exhibitions.
Walton has tutored a total of seven former Gators who have been drafted into and/or play in the NPF organization with the opportunity to continue their softball playing careers professionally, including Kristen Butler, Francesca Enea, Megan Bush, Kelsey Bruder, Aja Paculba, Michelle Moultrie and Stephanie Tofft.
After graduating from Oklahoma with a degree in history, Walton played in the Philadelphia Phillies organization from 1995-97.
Walton is married to the former Samantha Rhoten, who was a basketball player at Oral Roberts. The couple has two sons, Brooks (15) and Palmer (9), and a daughter, Camden (12).