Special Report on the Florida Gators softball team
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- After helping the University of Florida Gators softball program win its second consecutive national title, assistant coach Jennifer Rocha has been named the 2015 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division I Assistant Coach of the Year, the NFCA announced on Thursday. It is the first honor of its kind received by a UF coach in program history. Just a couple of months back, head coach Tim Walton and his staff were named 2015 NFCA National Coaching Staff of the Year<http://www.gatorzone.com/story.php?id=30848>. Another first for the program. Florida has previously been tabbed as the NFCA Southeast Region Coaching Staff of the Year four times (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011). The Gators posted a 60-7 record in 2015, taking the Southeastern Conference title as well as the NCAA crown. UF reached the 60-win plateau for just the third time in history and posted its third-highest win percentage (.895). The Gators ranked first nationally in winning percentage, they tied for first in wins, were first in fielding percentage (.981), fourth in ERA (1.63), 11th in on-base percentage (.438), 22nd in scoring (6.55 runs per game), 29th in slugging percentage (.514) and 32nd in home runs per game (1.19). Defensively, Florida's .981 fielding percentage was the best mark in school history, eclipsing the .979 mark set in 2013. The Gators committed just 33 errors in 67 games, seven fewer than any previous UF squad. Why Rocha? Jennifer Rocha has made a name for herself as one of the top pitching instructors in the country. In her 10 seasons at Florida, Rocha has tutored five All-American hurlers in Stephanie Brombacher, Stacey Nelson, Hannah Rogers, Lauren Haeger and Aleshia Ocasio. In two of the last eight years, the Gators have turned in the top team ERA in the country and the 2015 national championship season kept the bar high as Florida posted the top ERA in the SEC (1.63) for the third consecutive year, a figure that ranked fourth in the nation. After tutoring both Nelson, Brombacher and Rogers to successful careers in Orange and Blue, Rocha led Haeger to becoming the best pitcher in the country in 2015. After being a 2012 and 2014 NFCA All-Southeast Region First Team selection and 2013 NFCA All-America pick, Haeger boasted a modest 41-10 record in the circle, including a 10-9 record against top-25 opponents. She was just getting warmed up. During her senior season, not only did Haeger lead the Gators to their second-straight NCAA Championship but the Peoria, Ariz., product became the first Gator to win the USA National Player of the Year award, third to be named the WCWS Most Outstanding Player and second to garner softball's Honda Award. In addition, she was named the SEC Female Athlete of the Year and Pitcher of the Year. In the circle, Haeger assembled a 32-2 record with a 1.23 earned run average after beginning the year with 24 consecutive victories to mark the best start to a campaign in Gator history. Also in 2015, Rocha coached rookie Aleshia Ocasio to third team All-America honors, becoming the second freshman in Gator history to achieve that honor. In addition, Ocasio became the fourth Gator freshman in five years with 100+ strikeouts. Rocha & Walton Rocha, who came to UF with Walton in 2005, just completed their 10th season together with the Gators. Prior to Walton and Rocha's arrival, UF had never appeared in a Women's College World Series. Now the program has progressed to become a national power, reaching the WCWS in seven of the last eight seasons. The Gators are 552-121 since the start of that 2005 season. Other achievements include 20 players earning All-SEC honors 41 times; 19 student-athletes have earned 44 NFCA All-Southeast Region honors, and 15 Gators have been named All-Americans 29 times. This past season, Kelsey Stewart and Lauren Haeger were named the SEC's Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year. In addition, Haeger was named the 2015 USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year. She is the first Gator to receive the award, considered the most prestigious honor in Division I women's softball. Coaches Corner Assistant Coach Jennifer Rocha: "I am humbled and honored to be the recipient of this award. The success our program has experienced would not have been possible without our players and staff buying into the entire process. I am grateful to Tim Walton, the coaches and players that trust in my ability and ultimately inspire me to be a better coach." Head Coach Tim Walton: "What a tremendous honor for an incredible coach, and even better person. She has been so loyal to me and the Gator Softball program. Jennifer has developed some of the games' best pitchers, called every pitch, and help get our program to a national level over the past 10 seasons. I am very proud of all that she has helped our program accomplish in her career and none better than last season. With that said, congratulations Coach Rocha!"