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TV20 sit-down interview with Florida Gator softball coach Tim Walton

The Gators are 2-0, with Charla Echols a perfect 6-for-6 at the plate
Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 11:35 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -The Florida Gator softball team plays its home opener Wednesday night against Jacksonville having already collected a pair of season opening wins over South Florida last weekend in Tampa. TV20 Gator Insider Steve Russell had a chance to speak with head coach Tim Walton about the season outlook, including the pitching staff and key hitters, in an exclusive sit-down interview.

Steve Russell

“The Gator softball team will open the home portion of its schedule by playing Jacksonville on Wednesday and then a couple of teams this weekend.  Here to talk Gator softball is head coach Tim Walton. Tim it’s good to have you, this place has always been special and loaded with people, great fans here.  Will it a little different this year?”

Tim Walton

“Yeah, obviously we’re just excited to be able to play softball again.  That’s the part we can control, go out there and play softball and have some fun and try to figure out a way to create our own energy.  We might be going to go back to crowd sizes of 2006, my first year here, but I think more importantly, the thing I’m most excited about is the fans who get to come to the games and they’ll have their own space, their own seats, their own area, and we’ll rely on however many we have.  Two hundred, four hundred, five hundred, whatever the number ends up being, I’m just excited to get a chance to play and our kids’ families can watch time play softball again.”

Steve Russell

“Your team in the preseason is ranked very highly again.  If things go right, how good can this team be?”

Tim Walton

“It’s like anything, we have to pitch and play defense always.  That can’t go away.  I think our offense has an opportunity to win some games when maybe we aren’t at our best, but this is a team that’s going to compete for a championship, whether it’s SEC or national championship I think we have as good a middle of the lineup as we’ve had in a long time.  We’re probably not as fast as the 2014-15 years when we had some kids who could really run.  But this team can hit, we can hit for average, hit for power, and then defensively this is arguably not the best defensive team we’ve had, but we’ve got some players that rival the best we’ve had.”

Steve Russell

“You’ve had over the years here great pitchers in the circle.  Discuss the kids there how good can you be in the circle.”

Tim Walton

“It starts with Katie Chronister, last year was the best year she’s had as a Gator.  Now she’s a fifth-year senior we’re going to rely heavily on her to get ground balls.  Natalie Lugo was at the top of the country in saves last year, and I see her doing a little of everything for us.  A change, a rise.  She can get strikeouts.  And then Elizabeth Hightower had the best fall and leading into spring.  She a little bit of a setback around Christmas break but had the best fall for us.  To be the ace and be the number one you’re going to get me every single day and she’s gotten me a lot, she’s rising to that occasion though.  And then you go with Rylee Trlicek who had a nice year for us last year.  She’s got some work to do still she’s got to change speeds.  She’s like Katie, can you go three times through the lineup?  She’s going to have to develop her off-speed a lot better.  I think again Natalie and Katie are really going to have to be special for us to have a special season.”

Steve Russell

”You’ve told me Kendyl Lindaman is the best player you’ve ever coached, why?”

Tim Walton

“Best right-handed hitter I’ve coached because she can hit the ball out of the park to right field, she can hit the ball out of the ballpark to left field.  She can hit a change, hit a rise, hit a screw, she can hit anything, and just when you think you have her, she lulls you to sleep and hits a ball 270 feet on a line.  She knows how to cheat, that’s what makes special hitters special, you don’t have to tell her ‘hey look for that changeup.’  She’s got the cheat ability, which to me if you’re a pitcher, just when you think you have her, she changes the game in one swing.”

Steve Russell

“Tim, I remember coming her and broadcasting Gator softball when Chelsey Sakizzie was here in the circle and my gosh, there were 1-0, 2-1 games, slap hitters all over the place, games were an hour 45 minutes to 2 hours.  The game has evolved, Oklahoma City, ESPN all of that.  How proud are you of not only your team but how softball has evolved nationally?”

Tim Walton

“I think the game has evolved, the people in the game have evolved.  There is still some dominant pitching, but I think the hitters are strong, the swings are better, the defenses are better, the athletes are better.  I think the overall total game is better, there are some really good slap hitters and runners and stealers and coaches who live and die by that speed and live and die by that kind of ball, and then there’s other coaches who live and die by the home run.  I think to be a great team you have to be able to do it all.”

Steve Russell

“What’s in it for you Tim as a coach.  You’ve done this a long time.  You were a baseball player.  What drives you, what makes you want to keep coaching?”

Tim Walton

“The players.  I love my staff, but staffs come and go but they have opportunities with their families.  Players come and go, but the players who come to the university of Florida come for the same reasons.  Their passion, their desire to get a great degree, their desire to get pushed by our staff.  The consistency I brought to every player who comes through this program is what drives me is their desire to be really good and some want to be really good at hitting, some want to be really good at softball, some want to be god at learning how to coach so I think we’ve created a program that builds the player into what they want to be.  I think we have a complete program top to bottom in all three phases, as a person, student and athlete and that’s what I’m really proud of about the most.”

Steve Russell

“This field behind us, the Gators open at home against Jacksonville, and then the weekend it’s Georgia Southern and Charlotte.  Gator softball in action, we appreciate Gator coach Tim Walton joining us. Tim, thanks bud.”

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