CLEARWATER, Fla. – The NFCA Division I Leadoff Classic makes its return on Feb. 10-12, for a three-day showcase of collegiate softball. Featuring 16 programs from nine conferences, the 20th edition of the event takes place at the Eddie C. Moore Complex in Clearwater, Fla.
"I can't think of a better way to start the 2023 season than to head to Clearwater, Fla., for our NFCA Division I Leadoff Classic!” NFCA Executive Director Carol Bruggeman said. “Our tournament will give fans the first opportunity to see many of the best teams in the country in one place.”
NFCA Official Sponsor GameChanger will be livestreaming every tournament game, and two fields will feature expanded coverage with announcers and additional camera angles. GameChanger will run video livestreams for all 40 contests (six fields), through their newly-updated GameChanger app. Viewers can watch on their phone, tablet or via web browser for free.
Tournament Central | Purchase Tickets | Download GameChanger App | Schedule (Printable PDF)
Highlighting the field are 2022 Women’s College World Series (WCWS) runner-up Texas and fellow WCWS participant Northwestern. In all, 14 of the 16 squads played in their conference tournament a year ago, with 10 advancing to the 2022 NCAA Regionals. Both Texas and Northwestern captured NCAA Regional and Super Regional titles on their path to the WCWS in Oklahoma City.
"In support of all divisions, the NFCA annually hosts several Leadoff Classic Tournaments; Division II and NJCAA in odd-numbered years, Division III and NAIA in even-numbered years,” Bruggeman said. “We host our Division I Leadoff Classic in specific years to celebrate significant events or milestones surrounding the sport and/or the Association. In 2023, the NFCA will celebrate its 40th anniversary as an Association. One of the many ways we will observe this special milestone is to host a premier Division I tournament."
Three Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCU) — Howard, Prairie View A&M and Southern — will participate in the 2023 Leadoff, while four teams — Auburn, Kentucky, Louisville and Missouri — return from the previous Leadoff in 2020. Other teams in the field are Fordham, Illinois, Indiana, Pittsburgh, St. John’s, South Alabama and Tennessee.
"One of the NFCA's core values is 'respect for a diverse fastpitch community.' We are honored to have three HBCU institutions participate in our prestigious event,” Bruggeman said. “Thanks to generous donations from our members over the years, the NFCA created a special Diversity account. Monies from this account have provided Convention scholarships to deserving honorees. Participating Leadoff HBCU institutions will be provided entry-fee scholarships from this same account to provide opportunities for these institutions to compete in this first-class event."
Each team will play a total of five games over three days. Following a five-year hiatus, the Division I Leadoff Classic returned to Clearwater in 2020, highlighted by the inclusion of the United States National Team, which was on its “Stand Beside Her” Tour presented by Major League Baseball, a series of events leading to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Mississippi State, which posted a 4-0 mark, took home the 2020 title on run-differential average. Joining the Bulldogs with undefeated weekends were Illinois (4-0), Kentucky (4-0) and Missouri (5-0).
This tournament begins a stretch of six NFCA Leadoff Classics in 2023. In addition to Division I, NCAA Division II (Feb. 24-26 - Columbus, Ga.) and NJCAA (March 3-4 – Columbus, Ga.) will hold their respective collegiate tournaments. The Texas High School (Feb. 16-18 – Bryan & College Station, Texas) and Nor Cal High School (April 13-15 – Tracy, Calif.) Leadoff Classics return for another year, while the Bay Area Challenge Pre-Season Leadoff Classic hosted by Land O’Lakes High School (Fla.) makes its debut (Feb. 16-18 – Starkey Ranch District Park – Odessa, Fla.).
Previous Division I Leadoff Classic Champions
2020 - Mississippi State; 2014 – Hofstra; 2013 – Louisiana;
2012- DePaul; 2010- Illinois; 2008- Michigan
2007 – Georgia Tech & Michigan; 2005- Oklahoma
2004 – LSU; 2003- UMass; 2002 – Nebraska
2001 – Stanford; 2000 – Washington; 1999 – Louisiana
1998 – Michigan; 1997 – South Carolina; 1996- Washington
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.
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