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Cathi Aradi

UMass takes 2003 NFCA Leadoff Classic

The 25th-ranked Massachusetts Minutewomen got off to a fast start and rode it to the championship of the 2003 NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga.

Due to heavy rains in the area, the tournament format was changed to pool-play only. The championship was decided by the pre-determined tiebreaker format that existed for seeding purposes.

The Minutewomen were the only team that defveated three ranked teams in the tournament, but UMass was one of five teams that finished 3-0 in pool play. Alabama, Arizona State, Nebraska and Washington all went undefeated over the three-day tournament. LSU won the sixth pool at 2-1, but edged Cal State Fullerton and Oklahoma in the tiebreaker.

UMass won the title on the third tiebreaker. Both Massachusetts and Alabama outscored their opponents by 10 runs, but the Minutewomen only gave up five runs in three games, whereas Bama gave up six.

Massachusetts' Kelli Arnold picked up the tournament's Most Outstanding Player honor. The sophomore from Koloma, Wash., picked up the save against Pacific, striking out two batters to preserve a 6-3 win. Arnold went the distance against Florida State on Sunday, scattering four hits and giving up just one run to the high-powered Seminoles.

Alabama finished second after a wild finish in its final game against Notre Dame. The Crimson Tide found themselves down 4-0 with two outs in the seventh, but sparked by a Jackie McClain home run, the Tide erupted for seven runs in the inning to take a 7-4 decision over the Irish.

Nebraska took third place in the eighth annual event, capping off a perfect weekend with a 1-0 victory over Stanford on Sunday.