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NFCA Leadoff Classic Set to Unfold February 26.

COLUMBIA, MO - Twenty-four of the nation's top collegiate softball teams are set to participate in the fourth NFCA Leadoff Classic February 26-28 in Columbus, Ga. Competition will be held in South Commons Stadium and South Commons Complex.

Defending Leadoff Classic champion Michigan, a 1998 Women's College World Series participant that ranked sixth in the final USA Today/NFCA Top 25, heads a field that contains six of the eight members of last year's WCWS field (including champion Fresno State) and 12 nationally-ranked teams.

Fresno State is participating in the Leadoff Classic for the first time and head coach Margie Wright knows what to expect heading into the tournament.

"We are very, very excited to finally get to participate in the Leadoff Classic this year, said Wright." "We have always wanted to go to the tournament and this is the first time our budget has allowed us to do that. From our standpoint, it couldn't be a better year. The competition has always been very good and with six teams participating from the WCWS, it should be another great tournament."

The Bulldogs return three All-Americans from the 1998 national championship team. Sophomore Becky Witt will anchor the outfield, which will be without four-time All-America and 1996 Olympian Laura Berg. Fresno State also returns senior pitcher Lindsay Parker and 1998 Women's College World Series Most Valuable Player AmandaScott.

"We lost a few key players from last year's team, but we have a fairly large group returning this year," said Wright. "If we can fill those holes, we can have another good year."

Other members of the 1999 NFCA Leadoff Classic field that were ranked in last year's final Top 25 are Washington (3rd), Oklahoma State (4th), Nebraska (5th), Massachusetts (9th), DePaul (10th), Oklahoma (11th), Stanford (12th), Louisiana State (13th), Arizona State (15th) and Florida State (17th). Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Washington joined Fresno State and Michigan in last year's WCWS.

This year's 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.

1999 Leadoff Classic Pools

Pool 1
Boston College
Fresno State
South Carolina
Southern Illinois

Pool 2
Louisiana State

Pool 3
Central Michigan
Northeast Louisiana
Oklahoma State

Pool 4
Arizona State

Pool 5
Colorado State
Florida State

Pool 6
Michigan State
Nicholls State

Special thanks to the following Leadoff Classic sponsors:

Diamond Sports

Louisville Slugger


Schutt Sports

Speedline Athletic Wear

Wilson Sporting Goods