OKLAHOMA CITY — After Monday’s game one loss to Arizona State in the championship round of the Women’s College World Series, Florida senior Kelsey Bruder took it upon herself to discuss the officiating by umpire Chris Drumm.
Florida’s postgame press conference was called after seven minutes as an NCAA official signaled the moderator to bring the questioning to an end. The official then escorted Bruder, Michelle Moultrie, Tiffany DeFelice and head coach Tim Walton out of the press room and into a van outside the stadium bypassing members in attendance waiting for autographs.
Drumm, a resident of Oceanside, CA, and an umpire in the Mountain West Conference, has called the balls and strikes in both matchups between the Gators and the Sun Devils, and many have found her strike zone among other decisions as inconsistent – especially with magnitude of the event she is covering.
In the first inning, tempers flared as Drumm incorrectly ruled that DeFelice had not been hit by a pitch thrown by ASU’s Dallas Escobedo. Replays showed the ball clearly made contact on the right forearm causing it to swell like a snowball as DeFelice described it.
”It didn’t hit the bat at all,” she said. “I don’t know if bone sound like bat but it hit me square in the arm.”
After DeFelice ran all the way to first, Drumm followed her down the line and called her back to the plate causing Walton to furiously argue the call. After asking for an appeal, the decision stood and Walton was given a warning for no apparent reason as he put it.
DeFelice finished the at-bat with a fly out to right field and then Bruder came up to bat.
Bruder’s first two at-bats against Escobedo led to swinging strikeouts as the SEC Player of the Year said the inconsistent calls from behind the plate altered her approach.
“I’m looking forward to playing ASU without her behind the plate. I’m going to try and be as nice as possible but I hope that whoever appoints her reevaluates her abilities. 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.”
Some of those inconsistent calls came from rise balls Escobedo was throwing high and out of the strike zone that Drumm called for strikes.
When Walton was asked to comment on both situations, he simply deferred to DeFelice and Bruder to answer for him, saying both could answer the questions better than he could, essentially keeping himself in the clear.
No one took more advantage of the assist than Bruder.
“I’ll try to answer that in only a few words because I don’t have that many positive or nice comments to make about her abilities behind the plate,” she said. “But I think it was incredibly inconsistent.”
It didn’t stop there.
“I just think she eliminated every opportunity we had to have a good at-bat,” Bruder said. “The approach is completely different when the count is 0-2 versus 2-0. I hope nobody twists this and says that I’m blaming the umpire on our loss. Absolutely not. ASU was better than us today. They deserved to win again. But it was just absolutely miserable. Miserable – the worst ever.”
By calling Drumm the worst umpire ever, Bruder immediately gained attention via Twitter as a heckling fan tweeted her 13 times ranting on several topics including crying about the calls, Bruder playing in the SEC, the PAC-10 being a superior softball conference and Walton’s testicular fortitude.
Bruder retweeted every one of those tweets and simply replied: “Do u really have nothing else to do than tweet me 13 times? Come on buddy.” The commotion started by Skip_H8ter resulted in the cancellation of the account.
Before the retweets, Bruder made it clear once again in two tweets that she was not trying to blame the Drumm for the loss.
“Just so were all clear about the press conference, I have (given) credit to ASU and will again. THEY KICKED OUR BUTTS. They were better tonight,” the first tweet read. “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.”
NCAA director of championships Sharon Cessna told the Associated Press that she didn’t have to defend Drumm because of the expectations and preconceived notions Florida formed at the plate.
“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 said. “She’s one of the six best umpires that we have, because we bring our best here.”
With the NCAA’s plans to keep Drumm in the WCWS, those who watch the event on TV or in person will see for themselves if both Florida and Arizona State are given fair shots to win their first and second national championships, respectively.
Drumm will most likely officiate from either first or third base as the three umpires usually rotate duties behind the plate, but no matter which bag she covers, it will be difficult to determine the objectivity of her calls on illegal pitches, 50/50 plays and appeals on check-swings.
Whether the NCAA decides to discipline Bruder or Walton remains to be seen, but in the end, the Gators will impose a far greater punishment on themselves without discipline at the plate.
Gator Country reporter Safid Deen can be reached at Safid@GatorCountry.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SafidDeenGC.