In his second season as the Pride’s head coach Walton has hopes of leading his team to another NPF Title. In 2010, Tim Walton came aboard and led the Pride the franchise to its first NPF Championship in only its 2nd year as a franchise. Walton’s eyes remain set on that same result again in 2011.
Walton, changing the face of Florida softball since his first season in 2006, is a very distinguished coach and we are excited for his first season with the Pride. He has brought the Gator program to new heights, setting countless records and earning many firsts for the program.
In his four years at Florida, Walton has coached the Gators to the Women’s College World Series twice, including a trip to the championship series, brought home two Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament titles and earned SEC Coach of the Year twice. UF has made the NCAA Tournament every year of his tenure and hosted Regionals all four times. He has coached 12 All-Americans, 14 NFCA All-Southeast Region honorees, four WCWS All-Tournament team selections, 18 All-SEC selections, 11 SEC All-Tournament team members, including two MVPs, two SEC Pitchers of the Year and a Player of the Year. The coaching staff has earned NFCA Southeast Regional Coaching Staff of the Year three years running and the team was one of Easton’s Teams of the Year in 2008 and 2009.
The Gators also continue to shatter the UF record book under Walton’s tutelage. They have broken 218 records combined since 2006. In 2008, Walton led his team to an NCAA-record 70-win season and set the best SEC record in league history at 27-1. In 2009, UF batters set new SEC home run (86) and walks (274) records while being only the second team ever to registered a perfect conference road record (13-0), doing so with three more games on the schedule than the 1997 South Carolina Gamecocks (10-0).
The 2009 season brought new accomplishments and challenges for Walton’s Gators. Their .926 (63-5) winning percentage was the best in the country, as was their 0.69 ERA. They garnered the program’s first-ever preseason No. 1 ranking in both the USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball polls and returned to the top spot for 12 weeks, including three where they tallied unanimous first-place votes. The Gators then earned the No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament and for the second time in program history, Florida punched its ticket to the WCWS in Oklahoma City. UF soared to new heights with its first-ever berth in the championship series, going 8-0 in games leading to the showdown. The No. 2 final ranking was the highest in the program’s history.
Walton led the ’09 team as it broke or tied 61 school records, including the two conference records. The Gators went 15-0 on the road and recorded only two home losses. They captured the SEC regular-season and tournament titles and set the country’s longest win streak of the season at 29 games. In all, Walton coached five All-Americans, six NFCA All-Southeast Region selections, seven All-SEC honorees, the most in Florida history, two SEC Freshman team selections, four SEC All-Defensive team members, four SEC All-Tournament team members, including the tournament’s MVP, two WCWS All-Tournament team members and the SEC Pitcher of the Year as Stacey Nelson repeated the accomplishment, all while earning his second SEC Coach of the Year award.
Walton set a few milestones of his own during the 2009 season. He reached 300 career wins on Feb. 27 with a 10-5 victory over Pacific in the Gators’ sweep of the Cox Invitational. He also became the winningest coach in Florida’s history when he tallied his 193rd victory on March 21 when the Gators took down Tennessee, 7-0. He surpassed former coach Karen Johns’s (2001-05) previous high (192) in 76 fewer games. With April 4’s 11-2 win over Mississippi State, Walton became the first coach in program history to amass 200 wins.
Walton’s third season was a true turning point for Florida softball, as the team racked up the NCAA-record 70 wins and set many firsts for the program. The Gator tallied only five losses, each by only one run and four by a score of 1-0. They were the first team in school history to reach the WCWS and finished 3-2 in their first appearance, fighting through the losers’ bracket to play in the semifinals. The ’08 Gators were also the first UF softball team to host a Super Regional, garnering the program’s first-ever No. 1 seed. UF took the SEC Tournament Championship for the first time as the Gators defeated Alabama, 4-1, in the title game. They also captured the SEC title for the second time in program history with their 27-1 record, the best winning percentage (.964) and most conference wins in SEC history.
The 2008 season also saw the program’s first No. 1 ranking while the team broke or tied 72 school records through the course of the year. The Gators tallied a program-high 37-game win streak, which still stands today, and a 41-game home win streak, which spanned the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Walton also coached a school-record five players to All-America honors. He also earned SEC Coach of the Year honors while coaching four All-SEC players, four SEC All-Defensive team members, four All-SEC Freshmen team members and the SEC Pitcher of the Year.
In Walton’s second season, the Gators claimed the school’s first 50-win (50-22) season and an NCAA Super Regional appearance. Florida also advanced to the SEC Tournament Championship game for the first time since the inaugural 1997 season. In addition, two Gators earned All-America accolades, becoming only the second and third players in program history to earn the high honor, with Kim Waleszonia being the first position player named to an All-America team. As a team, the Gators set 59 school records.
In his first season, Walton led the Gators to a 43-25 overall record, making him the winningest first-year head coach in program history. The 43 wins was the most by the Gators since 2000 and the .632 winning percentage was the second-best in program history. Walton led the Gators to set 26 school records. Four individuals were named to All-SEC teams, a then program high and senior Kristen Butler became only the second Gator to earn SEC Player of the Year honors. The Gators tallied another first when they defeated a No.1-ranked team for the first time ever, beating defending national champions Michigan, 3-2, on Feb. 18, 2006.
Walton, the third head coach in the history of the Gator program, came to Florida from Wichita State University in Wichita, Kan., where he had been the head coach for three seasons. In 2005, Walton led the Shockers to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 16 years as they earned the first at-large bid in school history. Wichita State finished the 2005 season with a school record 46-18 record and broke 30 school records in the process.
Walton began his tenure at Wichita State with a bang in 2003. The team put together one of the best turnarounds in the nation that year, improving its 2002 record by 18 wins to a 39-20 overall record. The Shockers’ 39 wins was a school record at that point. Under Walton’s watch, Wichita State ranked among the top 30 in the nation for ERA and fielding percentage, including the fifth-best fielding percentage in 2005 (.977).
Walton has been a part of national championship teams as an assistant softball coach and as a baseball player, both for the University of Oklahoma. Before heading to Wichita, Walton served as an assistant softball coach for the national-powerhouse Sooners, as the hitting coach and outfielders coach. In his four seasons at OU, the Sooners won three Big XII titles and made three consecutive WCWS appearances, including winning the 2000 NCAA title.
Walton played baseball for two years at Cerritos Junior College in his home town of Cerritos, Calif., before transferring to Oklahoma. Walton made two trips to the College World Series as part of the Sooners pitching staff, earning the win in the 1994 national title game in a 13-5 victory over Georgia Tech.
As a head coach, Walton stresses academics and community involvement with his teams, as well as on-field performance. Since arriving in Gainesville, Walton has had his team involved in the community through Shands Hospital, March of Dimes, Climb for Cancer and Habitat for Humanity, among other activities. In 2009, the Gators held the inaugural “Gators Swing for Cancer” event, which raised money for Shands Cancer Research Hospital.
Since Walton’s arrival, the Gators have posted team GPAs in the top 20 every season. In 2008, they recorded the 13th highest in the nation and were the only WCWS team do record a top-20 cumulative GPA. In 2007, they held the 12th highest and in 2006, the 16th. Since 2006, 40 Gators have earned SEC Academic Honor Roll status, 19 freshmen earned SEC Freshman Honor Roll accolades, 11 players were named CoSIDA Academic All-District III and five were named ESPN The Magazine Academic All-Americans, including three first-team members. The 2009 team tallied the highest GPA in program history, recording a 3.53 cumulative GPA with five 4.0’s. It was also the highest among all UF sports teams for the fall semester.
“The importance of academic and community involvement stresses life after softball,” Walton said. “Because the student-athletes are going to be part of a community it helps them learn what it is going to take to be good people. Being an student-athlete at the University of Florida makes you a role model and we want our team to be involved in the community and performing in the classroom to show the young people that playing in college is about more than what they do on the field.”
After graduating from Oklahoma with a degree in history, Walton played with the Philadelphia Phillies minor league organization for two seasons. Walton is married to the former Samantha Rhoten, who was a basketball player at Oral Roberts. The couple has two sons, Brooks (10) and Palmer (4), and a daughter, Camden (7).