Florida Gators softball head coach Tim Walton isn't known to be a hothead, but in Sunday's elimination game against Stanford with the season on the line, he blew up at an umpire he felt was squeezing his pitcher with the strike zone.
Things got heated in the fourth inning of the NCAA Palo Alto Regional game. Florida senior pitcher Elizabeth Hightower threw a pitch that appeared to be over the plate and at least knee-high, but home plate umpire Jim Bertuzzi called it a ball. One pitch later, a similar scenario took place, with Bertuzzi again calling the pitch a ball.
Walton's frustrations boiled over, and he said something to Bertuzzi about the calls as he made his way to the circle to talk to Hightower. He was subsequently ejected, but not before kicking dirt on the umpire and getting his money's worth.
The Calls That Led to Tim Walton's Ejection
And here's a better look at the first pitch that irked Walton:
Here we go again!!!
Softball: Stanford Regional final
Home plate ump Jim Bertussi begins squeezing Elizabeth Hightower and compressing the strike zone to the size of a grain of sand. Tim Walton loses his mind, and Bertussi? of course, with feelings made of styrofoam? tosses him pic.twitter.com/lGbqo2nRC0
— InAllKindsOfWeather.com (@AllKindsWeather) May 21, 2023
Sure, you might think Walton is biased based on the colors he wears, but even ESPN announcer Amanda Scarborough agreed with Walton's reason to be angry. Scarborough was a two-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American pitcher and hitter at Texas A&M.
"I'm seeing exactly what he's seeing," she said on the broadcast. "This is an important game. He knows how important this inning is. Every single pitch. And know the Florida Gators are not going to have their head coach Tim Walton for the rest of this game. That to me is a strike. I've been honest, too, about some [Stanford pitcher NiJaree] Canady screwballs that were off the plate that I didn't think were strikes and she got the call. I feel like I have a pretty honest strike zone up here. ... I would not be happy either if I were him."
Walton had every right to be upset. Every call matters in a sport where you only get seven innings to score as many runs as possible. His team was down 3-2 with the season on the line, and calls like that certainly weren't helping Florida's effort.
While the game was close at the time, it soon got out of hand. Stanford scored four runs in the fifth inning and another four runs in the seventh inning, defeating the Gators 11-2 to end their season in regional play.
Florida fans on social media were upset over the umpire's strike zone, too. One of those was T.J. Goelz, the father of Florida players and sisters Avery and Kinsey Goelz; he alleged that Bertuzzi was telling Florida players to swing at pitches because they were going to be strikes "all day."
The Bertuzzi saga continues.
The home plate ump that tossed Tim Walton apparently jawed at UF players, according to the father of the Goelz sisters: https://t.co/hJz8YxaDCr
— Ainslie Lee (@AinsliesTwoBits) May 22, 2023
There's no word yet whether the NCAA is looking into Bertuzzi's performance or actions.
For Florida (38-22), it's an early and disappointing conclusion to the season for a team that's become accustomed to Women's College World Series berths. The Gators have been to Oklahoma City four of the last five times the tournament has been held, including last year's trip. They won it all in 2014 and 2015.
Still, after Florida was swept by Georgia in super regional play in 2021 and was now ousted in regional play in 2023, some are wondering about Walton's future in Gainesville. Maybe some of that thought process played a part in his ejection Sunday.
MORE: Kelsey Stewart's Behind-The-Back Throw Stunned Georgia
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