GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The program's first national title remains elusive, but at Florida the hunger remains.
Last season, UF lost in the Women's College World Series championship series for the second time in the last three seasons. The Gators, ranked No. 4 in the ESPN/USA Softball’s Top 25, graduated longtime stalwarts Kelsey Bruder, Megan Bush, Tiffany DeFelice, Aja Paculba and Stephanie Brombacher but bring in a touted freshman class. Florida will rely heavily on returning players like Michelle Moultrie (.443 BA, 31 stolen bases), Brittany Schutte (22 home runs, 69 RBIs), Cheyenne Coyle (.318 BA, 17 HRs, 60 RBIs), Kasey Fagan (.247 BA, 16 stolen bases) and Hannah Rogers (36-8, 1.92 ERA, 265.2 IP).
The Gators begin their season Friday in the USF-Fairfield Inn Tournament in Tampa, Fla., with games against Long Island and Florida Gulf Coast. UF's first home game is Feb. 15 against Jacksonville.
Here's some reading to preview the season:
Coach Tim Walton went to work in the offseason to expand Florida's offensive options. "We're going to have to move runners around a little bit more than maybe we have typically in the past few years," he said. ESPN's Graham Hayes previews his top 20 teams.
Florida led the nation in home runs per game last season, its 124 homers more than all but three teams had ever hit in a single season. But will 2012 be a year for pitchers' revenge? And how will Florida stack up with sophomore Hannah Rogers and heralded freshman Lauren Haeger?
Outfielder Michelle Moultrie put on a show in the WCWS, earning a share of the Most Outstanding Player award. Moultrie wasn't considered a home run threat before she hit four in Oklahoma City, but she has ample power and is now the undisputed engine that drives Florida's potent offense.