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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Women’s College World Series Championship Series: No. 4 Florida vs. No. 1 Arizona State

Event: 2011 Women’s College World Series – Championship Series
Location: ASA Hall of Fame Stadium – Oklahoma City, OK [Capacity: 7,300]
Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN2 / ESPN2HD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(4) FLORIDA GATORS (1) ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS
Head Coach: Tim Walton Head Coach: Clint Myers
Record: 56-11 Record: 58-6
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Pacific 10
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is making its second appearance in the WCWS in the last three years. The Gators fell in back-to-back games to Washington in 2009 and is looking for revenge against another Pac-10 opponent this time around.
» No SEC team has ever won the WCWS. It is the third time in the last five years that an SEC team will face a Pac-10 team in the WCWS championship series.
» Arizona State is the only team to defeat UF thus far in the WCWS, winning a 6-5 thriller last week with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.
» Florida has scored as many runs (41) in the first four days of WCWS play as the rest of the teams in the field (seven) combined.
» The Sun Devils and the Gators boast different strengths. Arizona State leads Florida in batting average (.338-.327), fielding percentage (.984-.974), ERA (1.83-1.90) and strikeouts (400-358). However, the Gators hold advantages in home runs (118-83), RBI (464-431), slugging percentage (.591-.536) and stolen bases (102-53). UF is also out-hitting ASU in the WCWS by more than 40 points (.357-.312).
» Florida on Sunday set WCWS records for runs scored in a single inning (11), home runs in a game (four) and RBI in a game (15).

LAST TIME OUT…

UF and ASU met on Friday and slugged it out in second-round action. Arizona State came away with a hard-fought 6-5 victory on a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh. Florida started the game down 4-0 but scored five runs in the fourth to jump ahead by one before losing it all to right fielder Annie Lockwood, who ended it with a bases loaded single. She finished the game 3-3 with a homer, three RBI and two walks.

KNOW THE OPPONENT

The Sun Devils are the top-ranked team in the country and enter on the back of freshman pitcher Dallas Escobedo, a strikeout machine who is getting it done in the WCWS with three wins and a 2.00 ERA in 21.0 innings. Arizona State’s offense has struck out just 13 times in three games and has plenty of power with Lockwood, Katelyn Boyd, Mandy Urfer and Krista Donnenwirth.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder…who has already set a WCWS event record for most runs scored (nine) and has been a catalyst for Florida’s offense all season long. She is hitting .625 (5-8) at the WCWS with a homer, four RBI, nine runs and eight walks.
» Sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte…who set the Gators’ single-season home run record with her 21st and 22nd bombs on Sunday. She has hit five moon shots in eight career WCWS games.
» Junior centerfielder Michelle Moultrie…UF’s speedster leadoff hitter who has hit more home runs (three) in the WCWS than she did the rest of the season (two). Moultrie is hitting .611 at the WCWS and is 11-18 with five RBI and seven runs. She is one homer away from tying the WCWS record.
» Right-handed pitchers senior Stephanie Brombacher and freshman Hannah Rogers…who are sharing duties on the mound for Florida. Brombacher had her best outing in recent memory early on Sunday, and Rogers pitched six shutout innings that evening before being tagged for a pair of runs.
» Escobedo…Arizona State’s dominant pitcher who may start every game in the series unless the Gators prove that they are able to light her up.
» Lockwood…whose stellar performance on Friday eventually won the Sun Devils the game against Florida, sending the Gators to three-straight elimination games.
» Urfer…who leads all batters on both teams in average, hitting .667 (4-6) with two homers, five RBI and four walks through three WCWS contests.

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Florida softball cleans up annual SEC awards

The Southeastern Conference released its annual awards for the sport of softball on Wednesday, and the Florida Gators came away with two individual awards and 10 total placements on the various All-SEC teams.

Senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder became the third Florida player to be named SEC Player of the Year (first since 2006). She leads the SEC in home runs (11), RBI (36), hits (40), runs (32), doubles (10), total bases (83) and slugging percentage (.883).

Joining her with an individual award is head coach Tim Walton, who was named a SEC Co-Coach of the Year along with LSU’s Yvette Girouard.

First Team All-SEC
LF Kelsey Bruder (senior)
1B Megan Bush (senior)
DP Brittany Schutte (sophomore)

Second Team All-SEC
CF Michelle Moultire (freshman)
2B Aja Paculba (senior)
P Hannah Rogers (freshman)

Freshman All-SEC Team
SS Cheyenne Coyle (freshman)
P Hannah Rogers (freshman)

SEC All-Defensive Team
CF Michelle Moultrie (freshman)
P Hannah Rogers (freshman)

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Gators to begin MLB season; softball’s draftees

With Opening Day for MLB beginning at 1:05 p.m. on Thursday, the Florida Gators boast six former players on rosters across the league.

2B Mark Ellis – Oakland Athletics
A nine-year veteran, Ellis is Oakland’s opening day starter at second base. He will bat in the lower half of the order seeing as he finished the 2010 season batting .291 with five home runs and 49 RBI in 436 at bats.

1B Matt LaPorta – Cleveland Indians
Praised by the coaching staff for his defensive prowess in the infield, LaPorta is still trying to improve his hitting at the professional level. An offensive force coming out of UF, he only batted .221 with 12 home runs, 41 RBI and 46 walks in 376 plate appearances in 2010 but will start for Cleveland this season.

RHP Darren O’Day – Texas Rangers
A force for Texas during the playoffs, O’Day struggled with his command this spring. He made a team-high 72 relief appearances last season and will likely be the primary reliever in 2011. O’Day finished 2010 with a 6-2 record and 2.03 ERA in 62.0 innings.

RHP Bryan Augenstein – St. Louis Cardinals
Augenstein pitched in seven games (two starts) for Arizona in 2009. He will likely be St. Louis’ long reliever out of the bullpen in 2011.

C David Ross – Atlanta Braves
A nine-year veteran like Ellis, Ross will be the back-up behind home plate for star catcher Brian McCann. He played in 59 games for Atlanta in 2010, batting .289 with a pair of homers, 28 RBI and 20 walks in 121 at bats.

OF Ryan Raburn – Detroit Tigers
Played at UF as a freshman before transferring.
In his seventh professional season, Raburn will be Detroit’s opening day starter in left field. With the Tigers supporting a large number of outfielders on their roster, Rayburn may not start every day but will be given as many at bats as possible. He ended the 2010 season batting .280 with 15 home runs and 62 RBI in 371 plate appearances.

Three of Florida’s senior softball players were drafted in the 2011 National Pro Fastpitch Draft on March 18. Left fielder Kelsey Bruder and first baseman Megan Bush were picked in the second round, while second baseman Aja Paculba was selected in the fifth. Bruder (No. 5 overall) will play for the USSSA Pride in Orlando, FL where former Gators outfielder Francesca Enea was picked last year and won a title in 2010. Bush (No. 6 overall) is joining the Akron Racers in Akron, OH, and Paculba was picked by the NPF Diamonds of Hermitage, TN. Florida head softball coach Tim Walton also leads the Pride and won the league’s title in his first season.

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Florida receives nine letters of intent Thursday

Between softball, women’s basketball and gymnastics, the University of Florida was honored to receive nine letters of intent on Thursday from future student-athletes who hope to become big parts of their respective Florida Gators teams.

Softball picked up six commitments for its 2011 signing class including pitcher Alyssa Bache (Clearwater, FL), third baseman Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, FL), infielder Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, MO), shortstop Sami Fagan (Dunnellon, FL), utility player Lauren Haeger (Peoria, AZ) and SS Katie Medina (Downey, CA).

“To say we are excited about this year’s signing class is an understatement,” head coach Tim Walton said. “Each one of these student-athletes brings a tremendous amount of talent individually. Collectively, they’re one of the best classes in the entire country. We look forward to great things out of this group. We’ll be losing an extremely talented senior class this upcoming season – arguably one of the best Florida softball classes ever. We are excited about coaching this talented incoming class, which we expect to step in right away and replace some Gator greats.”

The basketball team added point guard Carlie Needles (Highlands Ranch, CO) and center Viktorija Dimaite (Gainesville, FL by way of Lithuania), both of whom could have a big impact on the program. “I’m excited about the type of people that they are and what they bring to our team,” head coach Amanda Butler said. “They are all-around winners and are definitely championship-caliber people.” Dimaite is 6’4” and helped lead The Rock School to the 2010 Class 1A girl’s basketball state championship, while Needles comes from a high school program that has produced WNBA-caliber players.

Gymnastics head coach Rhonda Faehn scored another major signing for her program by bringing in Kiersten Wang (Colorado Springs, CO). Wang was runner-up on vault at the 2009 Level 10 Junior Olympic Championships and has excelled at every level of competition she has attempted. “Kiersten contains the perfect all-around package. She has a tremendous amount of quickness, power and talent. She is an exceptional talent who is extremely determined and loves to perform. Kiersten will contribute immediately to this team,” Faehn said.

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Baseball tops OSU, softball eliminated from WCWS

No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (44-15) took it to the Oregon State Beavers (32-23) early, scoring seven runs in the third innings to propel them to a 10-2 victory in the winner’s bracket semifinal of the 2010 NCAA Gainesville Regional on Saturday night at McKethan Stadium.

Sophomore starter Alex Panteliodis (10-2) tossed a career-high eight strikeouts in five innings and was relieved by sophomore Greg Larson, junior Matt Campbell and senior Chas Spottswood – all of whom shutout the Oregon State. Panteliodis’ 10th win makes him the first Florida pitcher since Alan Horne (2005) to achieve 10 victories in a season.

Offensively, the Gators were propelled by home runs from senior outfielder Matt den Dekker (2-4), junior second baseman Josh Adams (2-5) and freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-3). Freshman third baseman Austin Maddox’s 3-5 day included two RBI and a run scored, and freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson (2-3) also had a nice performance from the batter’s box.

With the win, Florida advances to the final game of the Gainesville Regional, set to be played on Sunday at 7 p.m. against the victor of Oregon State vs. Florida Atlantic (36-23) match-up earlier in the afternoon. The winner will have to defeat the Gators twice in order to knock them out of the 2010 NCAA College World Series.

No. 4 Florida Gators softball (52-9) was handed a different fate Saturday evening, falling 3-2 in a close back-and-forth game to the No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs (50-12) in the 2010 NCAA Women’s College World Series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, OK. With the loss, the Gators were eliminated from the tournament and officially end their 2010 season.

Junior pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (35-8), just hours after tossing a complete game shutout against No. 9 Missouri, started her second game of the day, once again going the distance. Tallying three earned runs (two in the first inning), Brombacher did her best to keep Georgia at bay but was unable to register a single strikeout.

Down much of the game, Florida rattled off runs in the fourth and fifth inning to tie it up 2-2. Freshman designated player Brittany Schutte (2-3) launched her third home run of the day and 19th of the season in the fourth, putting her alone at second-place in UF’s single-season record books. Pinch runner Lauren Heil scored on a wild pitch in the fifth, the Gators’ only other run of the game.

“We didn’t play our best; we played our hardest. I thought we went out and fought pretty heavily to the end,” head coach Tim Walton said after being eliminated. “It’s just one of those things, like we talked about two days ago, how hard it is to come back from the losers’ bracket. Anytime you’re eliminated it really hurts.”

Florida’s season ends with them sitting the school’s and Southeastern Conference’s single-season records in home runs (109) as well as six other program records in batting average (.331), slugging percentage (.627), on-base percentage (.432), runs (432), RBI (402) and total bases (936).

It was also the final game in the college careers of seniors outfielder Francesca Enea and third baseman Corrie Brooks, who each appeared in the WCWS three times, played in four Super Regionals and won more games than any players in team history.

Photo Credit: University of Florida

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FOUR BITS: Shipman playing football, two signees

1 » According to his father, former Florida Gators guard Ray Shipman, who transferred from the basketball team just a few weeks ago, has decided to switch sports. Rather than transfer to play basketball, Shipman will leave to try his hand at playing football – more specifically the position of safety. Shipman was named the state of Florida’s Mr. Basketball in 2008 but never really established himself on the college level.

2 » No. 4 Gators baseball (40-13) will begin the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament as a No. 1 seed Wednesday night against the defending national champion LSU Tigers (36-20). The double-elimination event, which is being played in Hoover, AL, will feature Florida in its third game and is set to air live on CSS at 5:30 p.m. The Gators swept the Tigers during the regular season, outscoring them 28-14 in three home games from April 30 to May 2.

3 » Florida softball signed a fifth player to their 2010 signing class on Tuesday, receiving a National Letter of Intent from Ashley Snedeker (Bloomington, MN). “Ashley is a very good addition to our 2011 roster,” head coach Tim Walton said in a release. “She is dynamic and is going to provide us with some athleticism at the plate and in the field. She is a proven winner at every level, and I am really excited to add her to our program.”

4 » Also signing a National Letter of Intent with the Gators Tuesday was sprinter Darshay Davis (Miramar, FL), who is joining the school’s women’s track & field team. “I would like to make the biggest impact as possible as a freshman next season,” Davis told the Miami Herald. “I know I will have more competition. I won’t be on top, but I expect to run pretty fast. At least finish top eight indoors and outdoors in the SEC and NCAA.”

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FOUR BITS: No excuses, Foley, rating, softball

1 » Speaking with reporters following the 2009 SEC Championship, Florida Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong refused to make excuses for his unit’s shortcomings. “We just didn’t play well at all,” Strong said. “We didn’t get off the field on third down. It was one of our worst performances in a long time. We can’t worry about one player [junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap]. He could have been hurt on the first play. [Alabama] showed nothing new. If you don’t tackle well, you give up big plays.”

2 » Saturday’s game garnered the highest rating ever for the SEC Championship on CBS, scoring an 11.8/24 or 13 percent higher than 2008’s 10.4/21. The rating peaked at a 13.0/24 from 7:00-7:30 p.m. (EST). It also reportedly set a record for CBS’s online streaming service, at least quadrupling their previous high of requests.

3 » The Birmingham News praised Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley for showing class and going over to the Alabama Crimson Tide‘s athletic department at the end of the game to congratulate them. “There’s a reason the Florida AD is considered the best in the business, and it’s not just because of all the championships his teams have won and all the money his school has made,” the article states. “That was a championship moment by a man whose team just saw its championship run come to an end.”

4 » Lake Wales, FL, softball pitcher Hannah Rogers always wanted to play for the Gators. When she was not offered a scholarship early on in the recruiting process, Rogers committed to the Florida State Seminoles. That was until a roster spot opened up on Florida’s roster and head coach Tim Walton offered her a scholarship. “It’s exciting because ever since I was little, I wanted to go to Florida,” she said. “It was a real emotional decision […], but I knew that Gainesville felt more like home to me.”

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