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Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Gators rattled by WCWS loss

By Pat Borzi

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Florida catcher Tiffany DeFelice arrived at the postgame news conference in a foul mood with a wrap on her right forearm. Left fielder Kelsey Bruder at least managed a smile, but she was simmering, too.

Twice, Bruder said she did not blame plate umpire Chris Drumm for Arizona State routing the Gators 14-4 in Game 1 of the Women's College World Series best-of-three final. But after the most one-sided first-game loss since the WCWS adopted a best-of-three format in 2005, coach Tim Walton gladly let two of his senior leaders gripe about Drumm's strike zone -- "Absolutely miserable, the worst ever," Bruder said -- and a key first-inning call that Drumm appeared to miss.

After leadoff batter Michelle Moultrie walked, DeFelice, a right-handed batter, was hit on the right forearm by a Dallas Escobedo pitch. DeFelice headed to first base, but Drumm ruled it a foul ball.

Even though Walton grabbed DeFelice's forearm to show Drumm the mark where the ball struck her, Drumm did not change her call. Walton began a long, animated argument that ended when first-base umpire Kevin Davis intervened and steered Walton back to the third-base coaching box at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

"It didn't hit the bat at all," said a hoarse DeFelice, who lost her voice several days ago. "I don't know if bone sounds like bat, but it hit me square in the arm. It swelled up like a snowball, and I had to have my trainer wrap it up."

Walton, sensing his players were upset, summoned DeFelice, Bruder and Florida's next two batters for a talk in foul territory on the third-base side. Still, a run never materialized in that inning. DeFelice flied out, Bruder struck out and after an infield hit by Brittany Schutte, Megan Bush struck out to leave two on.

By the time Florida scored its first run against Escobedo, it was the sixth inning, and ASU already had hit four home runs -- tying the WCWS single-game record -- to lead 14-0. The Gators cracked three homers in the final two innings to avoid a shutout but still face elimination in Game 2 Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ASU also handed Florida its only previous loss of the tournament, 6-5 on Friday.

"We have to shake this off," Walton said. "The good thing is, we had to shake off a loss a couple of days ago and get back out and get on it again. So we've got to do it again. We just try to be as positive as we possibly can."

For the Gators, it was an unexpected comeuppance for a team challenging historic tournament offensive totals, one that routed Alabama twice Sunday to emerge from the losers' bracket. A 16-2 first-game victory featured the tournament's first 11-run inning, and the Gators entered Monday with the second-most runs (41) and homers (11) in WCWS history.

Instead, ASU got its bats going in the first WCWS finals game between freshman starting pitchers, Escobedo and Florida's Hannah Rogers. Escobedo became the first freshman since UCLA's Heather Compton in 1990 to win in the finals, scattering five hits and taking a shutout to the sixth. ASU chased Rogers with 10 runs (nine earned) on nine hits in 2 1/3 innings. Reliever Stephanie Brombacher gave up three Sun Devils homers, with back-to-backs by Annie Lockwood and Krista Donnenwirth on consecutive pitches in the fifth.

Donnenwirth homered twice with four RBIs and made two snow cone-type catches at third base, one on a popup going back and another on a line drive. She turned the latter into a double play. There is no mercy rule in the finals, but the score was so out of hand by the fifth that some in the crowd of 7,447 headed for the parking lot.

"The work is not done," ASU coach Clint Myers said. "It's just another day at the office. We've got another game to play. We're very excited, but we know what we have to do."

Drumm also worked the plate in the earlier Florida-ASU game, and the Gators weren't happy with her ball-and-strike calls then, either.

"I'm just looking forward to playing ASU without her behind the plate," said Bruder, who homered in the sixth for the first Florida run.

"I'm going to try to be as nice as possible, but I hope that whoever appoints her re-evaluates 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. ... I just think she eliminated every opportunity we had to have a good at-bat."

Said DeFelice: "It was a rough night with that umpire. It was rough the first time we had her, too.

"I'm probably going to be upset about it for the next couple of hours. But tonight when I go to sleep, all I'm going to be thinking about is Game 2, and taking Game 2 so we can play a Game 3."

History, although limited, is not on the Gators' side. In the six years since the format change, only Michigan in 2005 won the championship after losing the first game, to UCLA.

Walton did not indicate whether he would start Rogers or the senior Brombacher in Game 2, but it might not matter if the Gators can't clear their heads.

"Tomorrow is a new day, and hopefully we're going for three," Bruder said.