The Norman Transcript

Sports

June 5, 2014

Apple doesn’t fall far from the coaching tree

NORMAN — Tim Walton knows exactly how difficult it is to win the Women’s College World Series. The Florida coach made five World Series appearances with the Gators over the last six years and came up short each time, twice falling in the national title series. But Walton also knows exactly what it takes to win that championship.

He learned that at Oklahoma.

Walton finally broke through at the World Series on Tuesday when his team defeated SEC rival Alabama in the national title game. It was the first softball title in Florida’s history, but it wasn’t the first for the ninth-year coach.

Walton’s head coaching career began in 2003 at Wichita State, but before that he cut his teeth on OU coach Patty Gasso’s staff. The former OU and pro baseball player learned how to coach softball under her tutelage, and he learned exactly how to win championships as part of the 2000 team that brought home OU’s first title.

And he learned well. He arrived at a Wichita State program in 2003 that was in need of help, and he provided it, leading the Shockers to a 123-64 record in three years and their second and most recent tournament appearance in program history in 2005. That landed Walton the job at Florida, where he applied the same transformation. The Gators had never made a World Series appearance and hadn’t won a postseason game since 2003.

It didn’t take long for Walton to change that. He took the team to the postseason in his first year, the Super Regional the next, and then the team made their first Women’s College World Series appearance in 2008 while winning a program-record 70 games.

After that first appearance, the dynasty was soon in place, and the Oklahoma connection remained strong. With former OU graduates Jennifer Rocha and Kenny Gajewski eventually joining the staff, the Gators made the World Series four of the next five years and won at least 48 games every season.

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