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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The 2024 NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic will take place March 1-3 at the South Commons Softball Complex in Columbus, Ga. This three-day showcase of collegiate softball features 22 of the country’s top programs, representing 17 different conferences.

Highlighting the field is 2023 national champion Trine and four more of the eight teams that reached last year’s NCAA finals at Bell Park at Taylor Field in Marshall, Texas. Third-place finisher Berry, fifth-place finisher Moravian, and seventh-place finishers Christopher Newport and Linfield are the others in that elite group.

Tournament Central

Overall, 16 teams who played in the 2023 NCAA tournament are in the Leadoff field. Nine of those 16 squads advanced to the Super Regionals last year.

Three of the four schools that have accounted for the last six NCAA titles are competing alongside the reigning titlist Thunder, including Virginia Wesleyan, who captured three crowns over that span (2017, 2018, 2021) and 2022 titlist Christopher Newport. 

Three programs who have combined for seven championships under their current head coaches are also in the tournament. Central has four titles under George Wares’ direction (1988, 1991, 1993, 2003), while Jackson Vaughan has guided Linfield to two crowns (2007, 2011) and East Texas Baptist captured the 2010 championship in Janae Shirley’s third season in charge. Central and Linfield have also finished as national runner-up twice.

Other teams in the Leadoff are Babson, Belhaven, Case Western Reserve, Chapman, Concordia (Wis.), DePauw, Illinois Wesleyan, Mary Hardin-Baylor, Piedmont, Roanoke, Saint Benedict, Transylvania and Wartburg. Each team will play six games in the tournament, with two games each day. 

Christopher Newport extended the streak of teams who won both the NFCA and NCAA titles in the same season to three in 2022, joining Virginia Wesleyan in 2018 and Texas-Tyler in 2016. East Texas Baptist captured the 2020 Leadoff and was 15-0 when COVID-19 cancelled the remainder of that season. 

This will be the third straight Division III Leadoff held at the South Commons Softball Complex.

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