Florida Gators: Kasey Fagan

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For the first time in five years, the Florida softball team won’t be making a trip to the Women’s College World Series.

UF’s 1-0 loss to South Florida at Pressly Stadium in the championship game of the NCAA Gainesville Regional on Sunday ended its season and capped a bizarre weekend for the sixth-ranked Gators (48-13). It began with the announcement that coach Tim Walton had suspended three starters indefinitely, a decision that undoubtedly affected the team mentally in an opening-round regional loss to Florida Gulf Coast on Friday and kept the Gators from forcing a second game on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeTim Walton
Joshua Duplechian/NCAA PhotosFlorida coach Tim Walton put his program above this year's postseason.
So instead of getting ready for the Super Regionals, Walton is trying to make sure everyone understands that he booted sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle, freshman third baseman Sami Fagan, and sophomore outfielder Kasey Fagan because it was the best thing for the team -- even though he knew taking the team’s leading hitter and two of its top four RBI producers out of the lineup was going to make it very difficult to reach a fifth consecutive WCWS.

"I think at the end of the day, it’s all about your team," said Walton, who has not given a reason for the suspensions. "And it’s all about the program. It’s all about the University of Florida. It’s all about the Gators. I’m not going to say too many words, but that’s what it’s all about. That’s the most important part of being a leader of this team. It’s all about the Gators."

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Looks like the Florida softball team has some of its swagger back just in time to possibly save its season.

One day after a listless performance in a 2-1 loss to Florida Gulf Coast in the wake of the indefinite suspensions of three starters, the Gators rebounded with routs of Central Florida and Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday to remain alive in the NCAA Gainesville Regional. Sixth-ranked UF (48-12), the overall No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament, must beat South Florida twice on Sunday to advance to next weekend’s Super Regional.

Florida hit six home runs in its two victories. Catcher Kelsey Horton hit two in UF's 6-2 victory over Florida Gulf Coast and first baseman Lauren Haeger hit two in the Gators’ victory over Central Florida earlier in the day.

"It was nice to see us get out there and play some softball and just look like we’re having fun," UF coach Tim Walton said. "Lot of high-fives, lot of smiles.

"Definitely a little bit more confident than yesterday and definitely looked like we were playing a little bit more comfortable as well."

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MoultrieAP Photo/Sue OgrockiFlorida outfielder Michelle Moultrie is the engine that drives Florida's potent offense.
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:

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McElwain discusses new Florida football
SEC Network's Greg McElory and Booger McFarland sit down to discuss the future of Florida football with head coach Jim McElwain.