Softball Gators gain preseason steam

In less than two weeks the No. 2 Florida Gators don the orange and blue and step out on the softball field clay to commence the 2012 season.

They kick off the season Feb. 10 at the USF-Fairfield Inn and Suites Tampa North tournament, hosted by the University of South Florida. They’ll play five teams in three days during the jamboree-type tourney. Conference games begin nearly a month later with the Gators opening against Mississippi State on March 9.

Although the team lost five seniors to graduation and was eliminated in the first round of the 2011 SEC tournament, Florida is expected to win the league this season. The annual preseason Coaches’ Poll — made up of the conference’s head coaches — had the Gators leading with six of the 11 total first place votes. Following close behind with five votes is last year’s SEC Champion, Tennessee.

In another preseason poll, three Gators were named to the 2012 Preseason All-SEC team. Lone senior Michelle Moultrie, junior catcher Brittany Schutte, and sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle were among the 13 SEC players who made the team.

As with the Coaches’ Poll, this team was chosen by the conference’s head coaches. The coaches voted for four infielders, four outfielders, two pitchers, one catcher and one utility/DP player. Making up the rest of the All-SEC team are four players each from Alabama and Tennessee, and one each from Auburn and Kentucky.

Along with being selected to All-SEC team, Moultrie was a 2011 All-America pick and 2010 and 2011 All-SEC honoree; Schutte was a 2011 All-SEC and All-America first team pick; and Coyle wrapped up her rookie season last year with Freshman All-SEC honors.

Gator Country reporter Darby Underwood can be reached at You can also follow her on Twitter at