UA’s Candrea seethes over illegal pitches in first-round lossby Anthony Gimino on Jun. 03, 2010, under Sports
And just about now … Kenzie Fowler has been called for another illegal pitch.
Out of all the games Arizona has played at the Women’s College World Series in 22 appearances — shoot, out of all the games Arizona has ever played — there has never been one that came close to Thursday’s first-round game against Tennessee.
Fowler was called for eight illegal pitches, which contributed to Fowler allowing eight walks and helping Tennessee score four runs in the third inning with only one hit. The Vols went on to win 9-0 in a five-inning mercy rule decision.
“It’s a hell of a way to start the College World Series and have something called there that hasn’t been called before,” Arizona coach Mike Candrea was quoted as saying by the Daily Oklahoman after the game.
“I’ve never seen an umpire’s judgment affect the outcome of a game, and tonight it did. It took the wind out of our sails.”
At issue was that Fowler’s back foot lost contact with the ground when pushing off the pitching rubber. It is illegal for pitchers to “leap” and have both feet in the air during the windup. When that happens, the pitch is called a ball if there are no runners on base. If there is a runner on base, she is allowed to advance to the next base, as in the case of a pitcher’s balk.
Fowler has been called for illegal pitches during the year — six when runners were on base — but the spate of calls Thursday was unprecedented and certainly unsettling for the freshman pitcher, and the entire team.
Since it’s safe to assume, Fowler didn’t suddenly change her pitching style, why all the calls now? It was an area of emphasis for the umpires this season, but it had never been monitored so stringently at any point.
“Obviously I need to fix it within 48 hours,” Fowler said in the postgame media interview.
“I thought I was pitching well but it’s hard to rebound from something that is so dramatic and something that can change the game.”
During an in-game interview on ESPN2, Candrea wondered how an illegal pitch could be called on one pitch and not the other, when the pitching motion essentially looked the same each time.
Fowler lasted three innings, allowing seven runs, four earned. She yielded three hits in addition to the eight walks. Her first pitch of the game was called illegal, setting the tone for the rest of her outing.
Candrea, in his postgame interview with media, said the umpires “didn’t know what they were doing.”
He added: “I don’t feel sorry for us, although I think in this arena, this young lady (Fowler) deserved a lot more than what she got tonight.”
Still, there was little excuse for another poor hitting effort from Arizona at the World Series. Since beating Tennessee for the 2007 national title, the Wildcats have lost five games in a row in Oklahoma City, scoring a total of one (unearned) run.
The Wildcats have been outscored 23-0 in the past two games. They have been outscored 32-1 in the past five games.
Arizona has won eight national titles, but none when it lost the first game of the Series and had to battle all the way back through the losers’ bracket.
The Wildcats are off Friday and will play Pac-10 rival Washington, which lost to Georgia 6-3 on Thursday night, in an elimination game Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Tucson time. This seems to be another bad break for Arizona, which went 0-3 against the Huskies this season (all the games were in Seattle).
Washington senior pitcher Danielle Lawrie — the two-time national player of the year — was the winner in all three games.
With a win over the Huskies, Arizona would need to win against later Saturday and then sweep two more games on Sunday to reach the best-of-three championship series.
Winning four games in two days doesn’t seem likely for the Wildcats.
But, then again, neither did having eight illegal pitches called against them.
“By no means is this team going to throw in the towel,” Candrea said.