BIRMINGHAM, AL (University of Florida Communications) - For the fourth time in his eight-year tenure at the helm of the Florida softball program, Gator head coach Tim Walton picked up SEC Coach of the Year accolades, highlighting UF's All-SEC honors released Tuesday by the conference office in Birmingham.
A total of five Florida student-athletes picked up All-SEC recognition following UF's fourth SEC Championship last weekend, including First Team All-SEC honorees Hannah Rogers (LakeWales, Fla.) (P) and Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) (DP/UT). Freshman Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) earned Second Team All-SEC accolades in the infield, while senior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) is a Second Team All-SEC pick in the outfield.
Stewart and classmate Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) represent the Orange and Blue and first-year Gators on the Freshman All-SEC squad.
Walton, Florida's 10th head coach to collect conference Coach of the Year honors in 2012-13, has been named SEC Coach of the Year four times since stepping on campus in Gainesville. He picked up Coach of the Year honors in 2008 and 2009 following UF's second and third SEC titles, while also garnering SEC co-Coach of the Year accolades in 2011 after the Gators won the SEC Eastern Division for the fifth time.
Walton reached career milestone win No. 500 at last year's SEC Tournament and guided a Gator squad that was picked seventh in the preseason, fourth in the SEC Eastern Division, to the 2013 regular-season SEC Championship. For Florida, the league title is its fourth (1998, 2008, 2009 and 2013).
Softball's regular-season title Sunday marked the eighth SEC title for the Florida athletics program this year, tying a school and league record for most in a season as Florida previously accomplished the feat twice, along with Georgia once.
Rogers, also a two-time All-American and top-25 finalist for USA Softball's Player of the Year, garnered All-SEC distinction for the third straight year, moving from the Second Team in 2011 and 2012 to a First Team All-SEC pick this year. Rogers paces the SEC in wins, and turned in a conference-best 1.48 ERA through league play. Haeger, who ranked second in the league in walks and third in homers through the SEC schedule, also earned her second straight annual league honor after being named to the Freshman All-SEC squad her first year as a Gator in 2012.
As a catcher last season, Horton was distinguished a Second Team All-SEC pick for her second nod as a Gator after being an All-Freshman pick in 2010 and the senior struck again in 2013, this time as a Second Team pick in the outfield, to cap off her final year donning the Florida uniform. Horton turned in a SEC-best five sac bunts in league play, including a single-game high two versus Auburn. The Gator outfielder has a league-best 10 on the season overall and ranks 10th in the conference in walks.
Joining Horton on the Second Team All-SEC squad, Stewart was one of three freshmen on the league's Second Team All-SEC list. An impressive addition to UF's infield, Stewart has been on base in all but four of UF's 56 games this season and ranks third in the country with her seven triples. The first-year Gator has 31 stolen bases, tying UF's single-season record, and eclipsed Florida's freshman hits record, previously 75, with her 77. Stewart checks in second in the league in hits and has turned 14 double plays, also ranking second.
Stewart and fellow first-year Gator Merritt are UF's representatives on the Freshman All-SEC squad, as Merritt holds down center field for the Orange and Blue. Merritt was sixth in conference play in walks drawn, helping with her .420 on-base percentage, while also tying for the league lead with five sac bunts in SEC play. Her four triples on the season are fourth in the conference and second on the Gators' squad to Stewart's seven.
The Gators will head to the 2013 SEC Softball Tournament Wednesday, hosted this year by Kentucky in Lexington, as the No. 1 overall seed. Florida will play the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 seed contest between Alabama and Texas A&M on Thursday, May 9 at (ET) at John Cropp Stadium. The contest between the Gators and either Alabama | Texas A&M will be broadcast live on ESPNU, as the complete 2013 SEC Tournament will once again air on the ESPN family of networks, with the Championship Game slated to be broadcast on ESPN Saturday, May 11, at 8 p.m. ESPN's softball crew of Beth Mowins, Holly Rowe, Michele Smith, Jessica Mendoza and Cara Capuano will handle coverage through the duration of the tournament.
2013 SEC SOFTBALL AWARDS
Player of the Year - Lauren Gibson, Tennessee Pitcher of the Year - Chelsea Thomas, Missouri Coach of the Year - Tim Walton, Florida Freshmen of the Year - Bianka Bell, LSU & Geri Ann Glasco, Georgia Scholar-Athlete of the Year - Jenna Marston, Missouri
First Team All-SEC P - Chelsea Thomas, Missouri P - Hannah Rogers, Florida IF - Lauren Gibson, Tennessee IF - Raven Chavanne, Tennessee IF - Madison Shipman, Tennessee IF - Paige Wilson, Georgia OF - Kayla Braud, Alabama OF - Kat Dotson, Tennessee OF - Kaylee Puailoa, Georgia OF - A.J. Andrews, LSU C - Jenna Marston, Missouri DP/U - Lauren Haeger, Florida
Second Team All-SEC P - Rachele Fico, LSU P - Kimmy Beasley, Arkansas IF - Samie Garcia, South Carolina IF - Kelsey Stewart, Florida IF - Bianka Bell, LSU IF - Kaila Hunt, Alabama F - Haylie McCleney, Alabama OF - Kelsey Horton, Florida OF - Branndi Melero, Auburn OF - Jacee Blades, LSU C - Griffin Joiner, Kentucky DP/U - Mel Dumezich, Texas A&M
Freshman All-SEC P - Kelsey Nunley, Kentucky P - Chelsea Wilkinson, Georgia IF - Kelsey Stewart, Florida IF - Bianka Bell, LSU IF - Geri Ann Glasco, Georgia IF - Emily Carosone, Auburn OF - Haylie McCleney, Alabama OF - Kaylee Puailoa, Georgia OF - Kirsti Merritt, Florida OF - Andrea Hawkins, Alabama; Tiffany Howard, Auburn C - Kellsi Kloss, LSU DP/U - CaliLanphear, Texas A&M
SEC All-Defensive P - Chelsea Thomas, Missouri C - Griffin Joiner, Kentucky 1B - Morgan Estell, Auburn 2B - Lauren Gibson, Tennessee SS - Madison Shipman, Tennessee 3B - Raven Chavanne, Tennessee LF - Kayla Braud, Alabama CF - Haylie McCleney, Alabama RF - Kat Dotson, Tennessee