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Never, never, never. Never. Not in all my years of criticizing umpires and officials (and rather enjoying it) have I ever believed the outcome of any game was compromised.
Incompetence? Everywhere. But crooked? Never.
What I saw Saturday, another episode in the distressing postseason tale of Hayley Feindel, the once-in-a-lifetime softball pitcher at Coast Guard Academy, would have been palatable were it mere incompetence.
But it was a fraud.
And it is for that reason that I believe Coast Guard should stay home today, rather than play Eastern Connecticut in the NCAA Division III regionals.
I know. Drastic. Especially when you are three wins away from the World Series.
Coast Guard should stay home to make a point.
And because it cannot win.
The Bears cannot win because the umpires, the people assigning them, the people instructing them and the people allowing them to perpetrate this fraudulent scrutiny of Feindel's pitches, have made it impossible for Coast Guard to get a fair shot at this.
Now you keep reading and decide for yourself.
In 2010 and 2011, Feindel survived each regular season with a handful of illegal pitches (much like her three illegal pitches among the 3,256 she threw this season.) In the previous two NCAA regionals, however, Feindel was called for nearly 100 illegal pitches, imperiling Coast Guard's chances to advance.
Feindel, as confused as anyone else about the veracity of the calls, worked so hard to change her pitching motion that she suffered a stress fracture in her foot.
Until it turned out Feindel needn't have changed a thing.
The evidence: Coast Guard coach Donna Koczajowski, and other members of the athletic department, saw a memo the NCAA sent to umpires at the beginning of this school year. It read, "(Feindel) was not illegal, never was illegal and stop calling illegal pitches on her."
Undaunted, however, the umpires have carried on their tradition at this year's regional.
So this was Saturday in the winners' bracket final. Coast Guard vs. Tufts. Scoreless game, bottom of the fourth. Tufts had runners on second and third with two outs.
Feindel had thrown 37 legal pitches to that point.
And that's when umpire Tom Boston forced himself into the outcome of the game, calling an illegal pitch. A run scored. Mr. Boston decided Feindel made an illegal "leap." Her foot left contact with the pitching rubber.
Or so he says.
"(Boston) said to me, 'I'll be looking for that pitch all game when a runner gets to third base.'" Koczajowski said after the game.
I've never heard an umpire or official admit to anything like that.
I have no reason to doubt Koczajowski's recollection of the conversation.
But it's a comment so damning that I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't ask Mr. Boston.
Except that I couldn't. NCAA rules, you know.
Protect umpires like FBI informants.
And so when there's an absence of truth, presumption and speculation fill in the blanks.
Makes you wonder:
Was Mr. Boston instructed to scrutinize Feindel?
Who instructed him?
For what purpose?
Or did he do it on his own?
For what purpose?
All questions that must be answered.
But they won't.
Because it's the National Corrupt Athletic Association.
And this is why Coast Guard should stay home.
What is the point of participating in an athletic event when your pitcher is subjected to different levels of scrutiny? She always has been. And even when the memo was issued to stop, there's still one voice in the wilderness who "will be looking for that pitch all game when a runner gets to third base."
So do you think Mr. Boston should ever umpire another game?
Remember this: The NCAA is a compilation of its member schools, not a nameless, faceless bureaucracy. Surely, someone at a member school - Donna Vavrinec, too, as she is the NCAA's softball national coordinator of umpires - can see extremism at work here.
Or are they all just too obtuse to care that their Mansfield Regional is a farce?
I'm aware Feindel allowed two more runs in the sixth inning. A few dim bulbs might reason that the illegal pitch became moot.
Just wait until today when she gets called again. And again.
For no reason.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.