Twenty-four of the nation's top NCAA Division III softball teams are set to participate in the first NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic March 9-11 at the Shuford Fields in LaGrange, Georgia. Five of the eight teams who participated in last year's NCAA Division III Softball Championship are in the field, led by defending champion St. Mary's University (Minnesota). Also in the field are Division III Championship participants Alma College (Michigan), University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, The College of New Jersey and Ithaca College (New York). Fourteen of the 24 teams in the field participated in NCAA postseason regional or national tournaments last year and ten were ranked in the final NFCA Division III Top 25, including seven of the final top 10.

Nicole Fennern, who took over the head coaching duties at St. Mary's following last year's national championship, says she's looking forward to playing in LaGrange.

"We're excited to start our season in the Division III Leadoff Classic," Fennern says. "We open with some of the toughest competition in the nation and that's who we want to compete against. It'll only make us better and that's what softball is all about."

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 bracket play will be at 5:30 p..m. and 8 p.m. Sunday*s bracket play is scheduled for 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.


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