TRACY, Calif. — Hometown team Tracy High won four straight games to capture the 2023 NFCA Nor Cal High School Leadoff Classic for the second time in the past six tournaments, as the event finally got back to normal over the weekend.
Last year, weather wreaked havoc and forced the brackets to be abandoned. The two years before that, COVID-19 intervened. So this year’s 18th edition was the first chance for the long-running event conceived and run since 2004 by Pacheco High head coach Charlie Pikas, to be played to completion and award a trophy carrying the NFCA banner through a partnership with the Association that was actually intended to be in effect for the first time in 2021.
The (9-4) Bulldogs topped Central Catholic, 2-0, in Friday’s Platinum division final at the Tracy Sports Complex after dispatching Kimball (another Tracy school), 6-4, earlier in the day. Tracy defeated Escalon, 17-7, and Inderkum, 3-0, on the first day of the 48-team tournament, which Tracy also won in 2013. Vintage was the Platinum bracket’s third-place finisher.
Vacaville (14-1) captured the Gold bracket title and Freedom (8-5) won the Diamond division crown.
Vacaville defeated Oakdale, 1-0, and Ripon, 5-2, on Thursday, then Dixon, 9-2, and Central, 4-1, on Friday. The four runs in the championship by the Bulldogs were the first of the week against Central after three straight shutouts. Dixon finished third in the bracket, with Notre Dame Salinas claiming the consolation final.
In the Diamond final, Freedom beat Dublin, 10-4, after defeating Pitman, Calaveras and Linden earlier in bracket play. West finished third, while East Union was the consolation winner.
Before this year, the tournament was last fully played in 2019, when Oakdale was the Platinum winner, Del Oro took the Gold division, and Del Campo claimed the Silver crown.
Celebrating 40 years in 2023, the NFCA is the professional organization for fastpitch softball coaches. Known for its highly-regarded coaches polls and All-America awards, the NFCA also educates and supports softball coaches on a variety of different levels: from podcasts to awards, to in-person events and National Convention.