OKLAHOMA CITY -- Eight-time national championship coach Mike Candrea blasted Women's College World Series umpires on Thursday night after Arizona's starting pitcher was called for eight illegal pitches in three-plus innings, including two that forced in runs.
Candrea, who also coached the U.S. to Olympic gold and silver medals, lashed out at third base umpire John Kurnat for taking over the game with a series of calls against Kenzie Fowler in the Wildcats' 9-0 mercy rule loss.
"It's just frustrating. I always think of a good official as someone that you don't even know is there," Candrea said. "Unfortunately, the officials were way too involved in this game at the early part of it.
"I just blame -- and I'm going to say it -- I blame that we as coaches have given the officials way too much power in our own game and not even know what the hell they're doing."
Fowler walked eight batters and gave up seven runs after being called three times for illegal pitches against the first batter she faced. Candrea claimed Fowler hadn't been called all season for the type of illegal delivery that Kurnat was noticing.
"I'm watching and it's called one time, it's not called the next time. It was sporadic," Candrea said. "So what do you do? You're at the mercy.
"I think that took a little wind out of our sails. I'm not making excuses why we got beat tonight. I'm just saying it's a hell of a way to start your opening game of the College World Series and have something called that has not been called."
Candrea motioned with his thumb and forefinger to show that Kurnat was suggesting that Fowler's rear foot was coming about an inch off the infield dirt during her delivery, instead of being dragged along during her pitching motion.
"I asked what I was doing wrong," Fowler said. "I was leaving the mound when I took off. I've never been called for it in my life, but obviously I need to fix it in 48 hours."
Dee Abrahamson, the NCAA's secretary-rules editor for softball, said the rule has been emphasized for months and included in training videos provided to umpires. She declined to comment on whether the crew enforced it properly in the Tennessee-Arizona game.
In the game played immediately before, umpires called a series of illegal pitches against Florida starter Stephanie Brombacher as UCLA scored six early runs on its way to a 16-3 rout.
Brombacher, however, has been working to correct a known issue with her pitching delivery. When she practices in the bullpen, Brombacher will lay a string in the dirt so she can be certain that she drags her foot through it.
"The umpires aren't the reason why we lost that game, and we're not the kind of team that's going to cry about anything," Gators coach Tim Walton said. "We don't complain. We don't cry. It is what it is. We've worked our best to fix it. We're here, and now the whole world gets to watch and they can make their own decision."