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Cathi Aradi

This Week in Fastpitch

March 1-3: NFCA/Schutt Sports Division II Leadoff Classic (Irving, Texas)
March 6: Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division II Player of the Week award begins
March 8-10: NFCA Junior College Leadoff Classic (LaGrange, Ga.)
March 13: First regular-season USA Today/NFCA Division II Top 25
March 27: Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division III Player of the Week award begins
April 2: First regular-season USA Today/NFCA Division III Top 25

For tournament dates and team schedules, check the NFCA Calendar.

NFCA EXTENDS PRAYERS TO BIRMINGHAM-SOUTHERN PLAYER: The NFCA wishes to extend its thoughts and prayers to Birmingham Southern catcher Shannon Cantrell. Cantrell, a junior from Phoenix, Ariz., was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease two weeks ago. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy. We're all rooting and praying for you Shannon.

NFCA/SCHUTT SPORTS DIVISION II LEADOFF CLASSIC ON TAP THIS WEEKEND: The last two Division II national champions highlight a 24-team field at this weekend's NFCA/Schutt Sports Division II Leadoff Classic in Irving, Texas. Defending national champion Nebraska-Omaha and 2000 national champion North Dakota State are among the five top 10 teams competing in the tournament. Last year's tournament had to be canceled due to record flooding in the Dallas area. No flooding this year, but it remains to be seen if the weather will be "softball-friendly" the entire weekend. Friday calls for windy conditions with some showers possible and highs in the mid-60's. Saturday, temperatures are expected to drop 30 degrees with daytime highs only in the mid-30's, with rain changing to freezing rain changing to light snow. Sunday should be mostly sunny, but temperatures will likely remain in the 30's. The tournament begins Friday at 9 a.m. Continuous updates will be posted on NFCA Home Plate on the Web.

"PEACHES" OF A WEEKEND FOR HUSKERS: Tournament Most Outstanding Player Peaches James posted a 4-0 record and pitched 24.2 scoreless innings to lead Nebraska to its first-ever NFCA Leadoff Classic championship last weekend. She recorded three complete game shutouts, including one-hitters over No. 3 Stanford and No. 5 LSU. In the championship game against No. 14 Alabama, James retired all 11 batters she faced in relief, the last five by strikeout.

LET'S TALK ABOUT PITCHING AT THE LEADOFF: The 2002 NFCA Leadoff Classic saw 11 two-hitters, seven one-hitters and two no-hitters, both involving Massachusetts. Cal State Fullerton's Jodie Cox threw a no-hitter against Massachusetts during pool play. UMass pitcher Kaila Holtz tossed a no-hitter against Southern Mississippi in the Bronze Bracket semifinal. Six of the seven one-hitters occurred Saturday. Nebraska pitchers tossed three of the seven one-hitters (two by Peaches James). Stanford's Tori Nyberg and Fresno State's Jamie Southern threw dueling two-hitters in the Gold Bracket consolation championship. Alabama's Shelley Laird (two-hitter vs. Utah) and Erin Wright (one-hitter vs. Mississippi State) allowed a combined three hits in two games on Saturday.

THERE WAS ALSO SOME HITTING IN COLUMBUS: Texas A&M freshman Adrian Gregory hit .615 (8-for-13) with two home runs at the Leadoff Classic to help lead the Aggies to the Gold Bracket semifinal. Texas A&M's six home runs was second to Illinois-Chicago's seven round-trippers. UIC's Edel Leyden led all players with four home runs, including a pair of three-run homers against Utah in the Bronze Bracket semifinal.

5-1 PICK-UP FOR FINCH: Arizona pitcher Jennie Finch set an NCAA record with her 51st consecutive victory, a three-hit shutout against Cal State Northridge on Sunday. Finch has not lost a game since April 21, 2000, before finishing the 2000 season with eight consecutive wins. She went 32-0 last season -- also an NCAA record -- and has an 11-0 mark this year (through Sunday). Finch breaks the record of 50 consecutive wins held by Florida State's Rebecca Aase (1991-93).

GRAF BECOMES ALL-TIME COLLEGE VICTORY LEADER: Florida State head caoch Dr. Joanne Graf became the NFCA's all-time winningest college coach last weekend at the Troy Cox Classic in Las Cruces, N.M. Florida State's 1-0 win over host New Mexico State on Saturday was win No. 1,125 for Graf, who moved past Judi Garman for first place on the NFCA's Easton Victory Club. Garman retired as Cal State Fullerton's head coach in 2000 and is now head coach of Italy's national team. Graf entered the weekend tournament needing two wins to tie and three to break the record. All of Graf's wins have come at Florida State, her alma mater, where she is in her 24th year as head coach. Her win total includes the school's first six years of slow-pitch competition. Which may help clarify the next item...

WRIGHT GOES FOR A GRAND: Fresno State head coach Margie Wright is currently 10 wins away from becoming the first head coach at any NCAAA level to record 1,000 college fastpitch wins. With 990 wins, Wright is currently the only active Division I head coach to reach the 900-win mark.

UCLA TOURNAMENT PAYS TRIBUTE TO STACY WINSBERG: UCLA will honor an alum whose life was cut short as the Bruins play host to the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament, formerly the Easton Classic. Winsberg passed away in December after battling lung cancer. She was 38 years old. Winsberg played on three UCLA national championship teams (1982, 1984 and 1985), and was a two-time ASA All-American.

STREAKING BEARS -- PART ONE: Baylor improved its record to 23-2 as the Bears extended their winning streak to 13 games. Baylor posted a 5-0 mark and captured first place at its own Compass Bank Invitational over the weekend. Pitcher Joni Miller improved to 10-1 as she pitched a five-hitter in the Bears' 5-1 victory over San Diego State in the final game of the tournament.

STREAKING BEARS -- PART DEUX: Golden Bears, that is. After a 4-4 start, No. 6 California has won 11 consecutive games to improve to 15-4. The winning streak includes a five-game sweep at the Softball By the Beach Tournament, hosted by UC Santa Barbara. A pair of freshmen figured prominently in Cal's final game, a five-inning 8-0 victory over Illinois. Pitcher Cassie Bobrow retired all 15 batters she faced, while second baseman -- and No. 9 hitter -- Jessica Pamanian belted a grand slam home run.

Y4K INNING FOR SEIBERT: Portland State pitcher pulled off a rarity in a game against Central Michigan, recording four strikeouts in one inning. A runner reached base on a passed ball on strike three, allowing Seibert to notch an extra K in the inning.

NTCC TRIFECTA: A player recording two putouts and an assist in the same inning isn't necessarily that remarkable. But when she does it on the same play, it's something special. With runners on first and second, and nobody out, Northeast Texas Community College freshman first baseman Ashley Tarrant caught a line drive, tagged first and threw to second to pull off a triple play against Collin County College.

BUT WHO'S HORATIO?: Oregon State's pitching staff currently has 165-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Senior Crystal Draper leads the way with 77 strikeouts to go with only three bases on balls.

MILESTONES: Evansville head softball coach Gwen Lewis recorded win No. 300 in the Aces 3-0 victory over Loyola at the Sonic Challenge in Chattanooga, Tenn.