NCAA wags finger at Florida Gators softball

The NCAA on Friday publicly reprimanded Florida Gators softball head coach Tim Walton and former outfielder Kelsey Bruder for voicing their displeasure about the officiating following the first game of the 2011 Women’s College World Series Championship Series against the Arizona State Sun Devils.

The NCAA said Walton and Bruder violated the organization’s sportsmanship policy on June 6 when the coach and player criticized home plate umpire Chris Drumm for being inconsistent on balls and strikes during Florida’s at bats and failing to correctly call a hit by pitch in the first inning of the series’ first game.

UF had their eyes on Drumm the whole game because they felt she had made similar inconsistent and questionable calls in the Gators’ second-round contest against the Sun Devils three days earlier. Arizona State won that game 6-5, sending Florida into the elimination round where they had to win three-straight games just to qualify for the championship series. UF won those games by a combined score of 30-6.

The Sun Devils swept the Gators in consecutive games (14-4, 7-2) to win the title.

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WCWS: Gators question officiating after game

Questionable, inconsistent and often bewildering calls were made behind home plate during No. 4 Florida Gators softball’s 6-5 loss to the No. 1 Arizona State Sun Devils on Friday. So when Florida stepped onto the field Monday for the first game of the 2011 Women’s College World Series Championship Series only to find umpire Chris Drumm behind home plate once again, they could only wonder how the officiating might play out.

The Gators got their answer right away when senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice was plunked by a pitch on her right forearm but Drumm refused to send her to first base and call a hit by pitch. Instead, she claimed the knob of DeFelice’s bat hit the ball first and sent her back to the plate even though head coach Tim Walton passionately argued otherwise. DeFelice, with a runner on first and no one out, flied out just a few pitches later.

In the bottom of the first, Drumm’s calls on balls and strikes were equally questionable and likely influenced Arizona State’s ability to score their first run of the game. Her inconsistent strike zone seemed to play a role throughout the remainder of the contest.

At the post-game press conference, DeFelice and senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder spoke candidly about Drumm’s performance behind the plate. Below are some comments made by the players as well as a response from NCAA director of championships Sharon Cessna, as transcribed by Jeff Latzke of the Associated Press:

Bruder: “I’m looking forward to playing ASU without her behind the plate. I’m going to try to be as nice as possible, but I hope that whoever appoints her reevaluates her abilities. I’m not making any excuses. ASU absolutely kicked our butts and they deserved to win today, but it was really hard adjusting to the inconsistent calls.”

DeFelice: “[The ball] didn’t hit the bat at all. I don’t know if bone sounds like bat, but it hit me square in the arm. It swelled up like a snowball. I had to have my trainer wrap it up. I mean, it was a rough night with that umpire and it was rough night first time we had her too.”

Cessna: “I don’t think I have to defend [Drumm]. I think she called the game as she saw it. Because it may not have met the expectations or if they felt like they had an issue with her in a previous game and they came in with preconceived notions, that can happen both ways as well. I’m not necessarily going to defend her because I think she called the game as she saw it, and that’s what we ask them to do. She’s one of the six best umpires that we have, because we bring our best here.”

After returning to the hotel, Bruder felt it was necessary to clarify her post-game comments and published the following via her Twitter account: “Just so were all clear about the press conference, I have credit to asu and will again. THEY KICKED OUR BUTTS. they were better tonight. All I’m asking for is a fair strike zone for my pitchers and hitters. Again, this is not an excuse. I just want a fair shot.”

Florida rebounded from Friday’s loss to ASU by claiming victories in three consecutive elimination games. The Gators will face two more in the coming days if they hope to fight back and claim a WCWS title.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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