Twenty-four of the top collegiate softball teams in the country will be converging on Columbus, Ga., for the 11th Annual NFCA Leadoff Classic Feb. 24-26 at South Commons Stadium and Complex. 

The tournament kicks off Friday at noon, with sessions following at 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday sees the conclusion of pool play at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., while bracket play follows Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday’s final day of action begins at 9 a.m., with the respective bracket championship games slated for 1 p.m. first pitches. 

Daily passes are available for adults ($10) and children 12 and under ($7). Passes to all games of the tournament are $25 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under. Rates for groups of 10 or more are $5 per person per day. 

For the third straight season, statistics from all games of the tournament will be available through GameTracker by clicking here

For the first time, the Leadoff Classic championship game will be broadcast over the World Wide Web through Softball Central, a division of Softball Magazine. Fans can access the broadcast, which is scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m. on Feb. 26, by going to Scott Pinner will be providing the play-by-play with Worth Club K owner Cheri Kempf offering analysis. 

Three teams that advanced to the 2005 Women’s College World Series highlight the 24-team field that includes 12 teams currently ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Poll. Defending national champion Michigan returns to Columbus for the 11th annual event along with fellow WCWS competitors Tennessee and Alabama. 

The Wolverines currently hold the top spot in the nation, while Tennessee comes in at No. 4 and Alabama at No. 6. 

In addition to the three squads that advanced to the nation’s final eight teams in Oklahoma City, 14 of the field’s competitors earned spots in the NCAA tournament. 

Defending SEC champion Georgia ventures back to Columbus after advancing to the NCAA Super Regional where it fell to eventual national runner-up UCLA. Northwestern joins the Bulldogs as the other team in the field (besides the three WCWS contenders) to have advanced to super regional play. 

Other teams in the field hoping for a return trip to NCAA regional play again in 2006 include Arizona State, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Hofstra, Iowa, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisville, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Seton Hall and Southern Illinois. 

Florida Atlantic, Illinois State, Illinois and Michigan State round out the 24-team field. 

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