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National Finalist William Carey Leads Loaded Field For 2012 NFCA NAIA Leadoff Classic

William Carey's Sarah BeckmanSTARKVILLE, Miss. – William Carey, a 2011 NAIA national finalist, will lead a highly competitive field of 16 teams at the 2011 NFCA NAIA Leadoff Classic on March 2-4 at Frank Brown Park in Panama City Beach, Fla. 

This year’s field includes 12 teams that were ranked or received votes in the final NAIA Top 25 Coaches’ Poll of 2011 and seven teams that participated in last year’s NAIA National Championship. A three-year time frame was used when evaluating potential participants and of the 16 teams that will compete in the 2012 edition of the tournament, 13 have been to the NAIA National Championship in at least one of the past three seasons. 

William Carey is one of four teams in this year’s tournament that has made the NAIA’s version of the “Elite Eight” in any of the past three seasons, having finished third in 2010 and sixth in 2011. Trevecca Nazarene also made the championship round in 2010, finishing seventh, while both Notre Dame (Ohio) and Martin Methodist qualified in 2009 turning in a sixth and seventh place finish, respectively. 

In addition to Trevecca Nazarene, William Carey and Notre Dame (Ohio), four other Leadoff participants also qualified for the 32-team field for last year’s NAIA tournament. Bellevue, Central Baptist, St. Thomas (Fla.) and Reinhardt will also be looking to make a statement in Panama City Beach in order to help them get back to the national tournament. 

In total, 13 states will be represented in this year’s tournament with the “Volunteer State” of Tennessee sending the most with four, followed by the host state Florida with two.  Rounding out the field this year are Auburn-Montgomery, Columbia (Mo.), Indiana-Southeast, Lee, Madonna, Southern Nazarene, Union (Tenn.) and Webber International.

This year’s classic will be divided into distinct portions; pool play and bracket play, with each team guaranteed a minimum of five games. Each team will begin the tournament by playing each of the other three schools in their pool. Once pool play is completed, the teams will be divided into two brackets of eight teams each. The top two teams in each pool will form the gold championship bracket, while the remaining two teams in each pool will be placed in the silver championship bracket. Trophies will be awarded to each bracket’s winner, runner-up and consolation winner. 

Single day tickets will be $8 for adults, $6 for students and $5 for youth groups of 10 or more. Full tournament passes will also be available for $20 for adults and $15 for students. All tickets can be purchased at the gate on game days. Additional tournament information can be found HERE

For more information on Panama City Beach and accommodations in the area, please visit the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at www.visitpanamacitybeach.com.