Twenty-four of the nation's top collegiate softball teams, including 2002 national champion California, are set to participate in the eighth annual NFCA Leadoff Classic February 21-23 in Columbus, Georgia.

California and defending Leadoff Classic champion Nebraska are among six teams in this year's field which competed in the 2002 Women's College World Series. Joining the Golden Bears and the Huskers are WCWS third-place finishers Arizona State and Florida State, along with Michigan and Oklahoma.

Of the 24 teams in the field, 19 competed in NCAA postseason play in 2002, 17 of which finished in last year's final USA Today/NFCA Top 25, including 13 teams ranked in the top 15.

"We're proud to be national champions, but this is a new year," said California head coach Diane Ninemire. "This is an elite group of teams competing in the Leadoff Classic and we know we have to play the best we can. It's a tournament that gives you a flavor of what the World Series will be like in May."

Nebraska became the sixth Leadoff Classic champion in seven years to go on to compete in that year's Women*s College World Series. California's appearance marks the third time in the last five years the Leadoff Classic field has included the defending national champion.

The tournament format consists of six, four-team pools. Following pool play, the top team from each pool, along with two at-large teams, will advance to the Gold Championship Bracket. The remaining four second-place teams along with four at-large teams will be placed in the Silver Championship Bracket and the remaining eight teams will be assigned to the Bronze Championship Bracket. All brackets will be single elimination/consolation. Each team will play a minimum of five games (three pool, two bracket) regardless of pool or bracket assignments.

Saturday's bracket play will be at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday's bracket play is scheduled for 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.


2003 NFCA Leadoff Classic Pool Assignments and Schedule
(2002 records in parenthesis)

Alabama (46-19)
Cal State Fullerton (53-13)
Arizona State (46-20) California (56-19)
Pool 2
LSU (56-11)
DePaul (50-11)
Illinois State (34-17)
Oklahoma (49-16)
Pool 3
Liberty (28-35)
Notre Dame (44-16)
Villanova (45-15)
Ohio State (55-14)
Pool 4
Florida State (55-20)
Nebraska (50-14)
Michigan (50-11)
Massachusetts (53-13)
Pool 5
North Carolina (34-30)
South Carolina (46-20)
Oregon State (40-25)
Southern Mississippi (28-35)
Pool 6
Temple (27-25)
Pacific (43-17)
Stanford (44-20)
Washington (46-18)
Friday, February 21 (All Times Eastern)
Illinois St. vs. Alabama
Oklahoma vs. Villanova
Arizona St. vs. DePaul
2:30 p.m.
Alabama vs. California
Villanova vs. LSU
DePaul vs. Ohio State
5 p.m.
California vs. Notre Dame
LSU vs. CSU Fullerton
Ohio St. vs. Liberty
7:30 p.m.
Notre Dame vs. Ill. St.
CSU Fullerton vs. Oklahoma
Liberty vs. Arizona St.
Oregon St. vs. UMass
Stanford vs. UNC
Washington vs. USC
2:30 p.m.
UMass vs. Pacific
UNC vs. Nebraska
USC vs. Temple
5 p.m.
Pacific vs. Florida St.
Nebraska vs. Southern Miss.
Temple vs. Michigan
7:30 p.m.
Florida St. vs. Oregon St.
Southern Miss. vs. Stanford
Michigan vs. Washington

Saturday, February 22
10 a.m.
Oklahoma vs. LSU
Illinois St. vs. California
12:30 p.m.
CSU Fullerton vs. V'nova
Notre Dame vs. Alabama
Liberty vs. DePaul
10 a.m.
Oregon St. vs. Pacific
Stanford vs. Nebraska
Washington vs. Temple
12:30 p.m.
UMass vs. Florida State
Southern Miss. vs. UNC
Michigan vs. USC
5 p.m.

Bracket Play
7:30 p.m.

Bracket Play
Sunday, February 23

9 a.m.
Bracket Play
11 a.m.
Bracket Play
1 p.m.
Bracket Play


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