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Division I Leadoff Classic Begins Friday, March 3

PLAY BALL: Play is set to begin Friday, March 3, in the fifth annual NFCA Division I Leadoff Classic. The Classic, which runs through Sunday, March 5, features 15 of the teams listed in the most recent USA Today/NFCA Top 25, including No. 1 Washington and No. 4 Arizona State. Here is a schedule of games to be played on Friday, March 3.

Noon Florida vs. Illinois-Chicago           Florida vs. Utah  Oklahoma vs. Massachusetts             Oklahoma vs. Mississippi Cal State Northridge vs. Hofstra       Cal State Northidge vs. La.-Lafayette                                   2:30 p.m.              Boston College vs. Hawaii             Boston College vs. LSU Florida State vs. Fresno State         Florida State vs. Harvard Alabama vs. Arizona State              Alabama vs. DePaul  5:00 p.m.   Utah vs. Washington                    Washington vs. Illinois-Chicago Mississippi State vs. Stanford         Stanford vs. Massachusetts Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Nebraska      
Nebraska vs. Hofstra 7:30 p.m. LSU vs. Michigan Michigan vs. Hawaii Harvard vs. Texas Texas vs. Fresno State DePaul vs. Oklahoma State Oklahoma State vs. Arizona State

UPDATES: Be sure to check the NFCA web page for Leadoff Classic updates throughout the weekend. Game Scores will be updated every half-hour, beginning Friday at 12:30 p.m. EST.

LADY CAJUNS WILL DEFEND: The University of Louisiana-Lafayette (formerly University of Southwestern Louisiana) returns to defend its 1999 Leadoff Classic title. The Lady Cajuns, No. 15 in this week*s USA Today/NFCA Top 25, enter the Classic with a 9-1 record following Tuesday's 7-3 and 7-6 (11 innings) doubleheader sweep of Northwestern State (Louisiana). Shortstop Alanda Addison celebrated her 20th birthday by hitting a home run in each game.

DEPAUL, LAST YEAR'S RUNNER UP, ALSO RETURNS: The No. 20 DePaul Blue Demons (3-3) come into the Classic fresh from a runner up finish in last weekend's Bama Bash in Tuscaloosa. The Demons slipped past host Alabama 3-2 in the championshipsemifinals on a solo homer by freshman Lindsey Chouinard before falling to No. 2 ranked Arizona 6-1 in the championship game.

WE'VE GOT NO. 1: For the second year n a row, the Leadoff Classic boasts the nation's No. 1 ranked Division I team. This year, it's the University of Washington Huskies. Fresno State was No. 1 in the poll entering the 1999 tournament. The Huskies are 19-1 and were the No. 1 selection of all 27 voters in this week's Division I poll. UW freshman shortstop/right fielder Jaime Clark earned Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I Player of the Week honors this week with a .706 (12-for-17) batting average in five games at the Southern Utah Tourhament. Overall this year, Clark is batting .466 with nine home runs and 27 hits. Washington has won or shared four tournament championships already this season.

THE "WRIGHT" WAY:Fresno State Coach Margie Wright is closing in on two major milestones. Wright, 895-294-3 in her 21-year coaching career, became the NCAA's winningest active head softball coach when Cal State Fullerton's Judi Garman (913-374-4) retired last December. Wright needs five wins to hit the 900-win mark and 19 wins to pass Garman (913-374-4) on the all-time Division I win list.

LEWIS POWERS LSU: Louisiana State University, tied for fifth in this week's Top 25, is, among other things, the only team to defeat Washington this season (the Huskies later avenged that loss). The Tigers are led by pitcher Ashley Lewis, who earned Southeastern Conference Player of the Week honors last week for her performance in the LSU Purple and Gold Challenge tournament. Her ninth-inning solo home run against Southern Miss in the title game tied that contest 1-1 and she knocked in the game-winning run in extra innings. Overall, Lewis is 5-2 with a 1.63 ERA as a pitcher and is batting .304.

OKLAHOMA'S WEEKLY AWARD For the third week in a row, No. 5 (tied with LSU) Oklahoma (19-1) boasts the Big 12 Conference Player of the Week. This week's honoree is Ashley Barrett, who led the Sooners to the championship of the OU/Adidas Classic by batting .444 with four doubles and a home run in seven games. Earlier OU Big 12 honorees were Jennifer Stewart (Pitcher of the Week) and Mandy Fulton (Player of the Week).

KRETSCHMAN, JONES LEAD BAMA TO HIGHEST RANKING EVER: Alabama's No. 16 national ranking is the highest ever for the Tide in the program*s four-year history. Junior centerfielder Kelly Kretschman, an alternate to the US Olympic team, leads the Tide in batting (.475) and RBI (21). Ginger Jones tops the Tide in HR's with six and is second only to Kretschman in batting average (.386).

HAWAI'I VENTURES TO THE MAINLAND: No. 19 Hawai'i (8-2) plays its first road games of the season this weekend. The Wahine is led by what school publicists are calling the "Fab Four", the team's four seniors: Melissa McGie (second base), Dana Degen (catcher/dp), Joyce Lum (first base) and Alison Rapinot (third base).

OTHER TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEKEND:

Schutt Sports Division II Leadoff Classic, Irving, Texas, March 3-5  Host: Texas Woman's University                   Pittsburg State University Invitational, Pittsburg, KS March 3-4 Host: Pittsburg State University  Southern Classic, Carbondale, IL, March 4-5  Host: Southern Illinois University  Disney's Spring Training 2000, Orlando, FL, March 4-10  Host: Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex  Pee Dee Pitch Off, Florence, South Carolina, March 3-4  Host: South Florence High School