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This Week In Fastpitch

WRIGHT HITS 900 WINS: Fresno State Head Coach Margie Wright reached a major milestone during this year's NFCA Division I Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Georgia. Wright, the winningest active coach in NCAA Division I history, became only the second coach in Div. I history to hit the 900-career win mark. Win No. 900 came on Saturday, March 4, a 2-0 victory over Texas. Wright, 902-295-3 (.753) in 21 years of college coaching (15 at Fresno State), needs 12 more wins to pass Judi Garman of Cal State Fullerton and become the NCAA's all-time career win leader. Wright has directed the Bulldogs to 10 Women's College World Series appearances, one WCWS championship (1998), 10 conference championships, 10 regional championships and 14 straight NCAA postseason appearances. With a WCWS title and three national runner up finishes, Wright is the only coach in FSU history to win region coach of the years honors (seven times) and is the third head coach overall at FSU to capture National Coach of the Year honors (1988). An assistant coach for the 1996 USA Olympic Gold Medal team, Wright has averaged 53 wins a year and has coached 42 All-Americans and eight GTE Academic All-Americans.

KENNESAW STATE WINS INAUGURAL SCHUTT SPORTS/DIVISION II LEADOFF CLASSIC: Kennesaw State (Ga.) captured the championship in the inaugural Schutt Sports/Division II Leadoff Classic, defeating Texas A&M-Kingsville 4-2 in nine innings Sunday. The tournament was held over the weekend in Irving, Tex. The win was the third extra-inning game in the tournament for Kennesaw State, which posted a 6-0 record at the Classic. Kennesaw State junior centerfielder Melissa Vansant was named Most Valuable Player of the Gold Bracket, sparking the Owls both at the plate and on the field. In the first round of bracket play, Vansant beat out an infield single with one out in the bottom of the eighth to drive in the game-winning run in Kennesaw State's 8-7 victory over Texas Wesleyan. In the fifth inning of the championship game, Vansant caught a fly ball and threw the runner out at the plate for an inning-ending double play after Texas A&M-Kingsville had loaded the bases with nobody out. Seven teams ranked in the NFCA Division II Coaches Top 25 were among the 24-team field in the Schutt Sports/Division II Leadoff Classic. The three highest ranked teams, No. 3 Kennesaw State, No. 4 West Florida, No. 5 California (Pa.), won the three bracket championships. West Florida defeated No. 18 Southeastern Oklahoma State 3-1 to win the Silver Bracket championship. Silver Bracket MVP Cindie Corey drove in all three West Florida runs with a pair of doubles. California defeated Oklahoma Panhandle State 2-1 to win the Bronze Bracket championship. Bronze Bracket MVP Melissa Brooks pitched a three-hitter and accounted for both California runs, driving in a run in the first inning and scoring the go-ahead run in the sixth. The Schutt Sports/Division II Leadoff Classic is the brainchild of tournament host Texas Woman's head coach Dianne Baker and is patterned after the NFCA (Division I) Leadoff Classic. Baker recently received the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award.

WILDCATS TAKE HILLENBRAND TITLE: No. 2 ranked Arizona wasted little time putting runs on the scoreboard Sunday in its final two games of the Hillenbrand Invitational softball tournament, whipping Indiana 10-0 and then topping Northwestern State (Louisiana) 8-0. Arizona (25-1), finished 5-0 in the tournament, tying Oregon State for the best record but winning the title on a run-differential basis in the round-robin affair. The teams were the only two in the seven-team field which, by agreement, did not play each other.

CAL SWEEPS EASTON SHOWCASE TOURNEY: Lisa Iancin went 3-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI to back the three-hit pitching of Jennifer Deering as No. 7 Cal defeated Colorado State, 3-1, on the second day of the Easton Showcase Tournament. Cal's second game of the day, against Portland State, was postponed due to rain. The tournament concluded Sunday. The Bears improved to 22-1 on the season, while CSU fell to 5-9. Cal scored twice in the first inning, but Colorado State made it 2-1 in the second inning on a home run by Amanda Kocis. Cal, though, added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning, and the 3-1 score held up the rest of the way. Deering, who improved to 5-0 on the year, struck out five and walked only one. In addition to Iancin, the only other Cal player to have a base hit was junior left fielder Pauline Duenas, who was 2-for-2 with an RBI.

UCLA VS. USA: The defending WCWS Champion UCLA softball team will play a doubleheader against the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team on Saturday, March 25, at Easton Stadium. The doubleheader will include two seven-inning games governed by international rules, and is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. The 2000 U.S. Olympic Team includes six former or current Bruins among its 15-player active roster, including Christie Ambrosi, Jennifer Brundage, Sheila Cornell-Douty, Lisa Fernandez, Stacey Nuveman and Dot Richardson. The seventh Bruin associated with the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team is one of the team's four alternates, sophomore Amanda Freed. Freed will participate with the Bruins in the doubleheader. Advance tickets for the doubleheader will be $6 for adults, $4 for children, and are available through the UCLA Central Ticket Office at 310-UCLA-WIN.

A&M WINS GTE AGGIE INVITATIONAL: Texas A&M slipped past New Mexico 3-1 to win the championship of the GTE Aggie Invitational at College Station. The win gave A&M and New Mexico identical 5-1 tournament records, but A&M won the title based on head-to-head competition.

IRISH GO 4-0 AT STATE LINE CLASSIC: The Notre Dame softball team went a perfect 4-0 at the State Line Classic, beating Virginia Tech 3-0 Sunday afternoon in the championship final. With the win, the Irish, who did not allow a run in the four tournament games, improved to 11-4 on the season and extended their current win streak to seven games. Irish players Melanie Alkire (pitcher/shortstop), Andria Bledsoe (third base/shortstop) and Jarrah Myers (catcher) were named to the All-Tournament team and Notre Dame pitcher Michelle Moschel was named MVP.

SOUTHERN MISS DRAWS BIG CROWDS TO NEW FIELD: The University of Southern Mississippi drew 1,447 fans to its first two doubleheaders at the new Lady Eagle Diamond at Oak Grove Optimist Park in Hattiesburg last week. Tuesday's sweep of Louisiana-Monroe drew 754 fans while the following night's pair of wins against Samford saw 693 fans enter the new park. "We were so excited about the fans showing up," said USM Coach Lu Harris. "I hope they know just how much it means to us that they are there."

CENTRAL COACH, PLAYER REACH MILESTONES: Central College (NCAA Division III) Coach George Wares became just the second softball coach in NCAA Div. III history to win 500 games as the nationally ranked Dutch opened the 2000 campaign with a 3-1 record against Div. II competition at the Pittsburg State Invitational. Wares reached 500-win plateau in the season opener, a dramatic 3-2, eight-inning win over traditional Div. II power Missouri Southern Saturday. Meanwhile, Central third baseman Donell Hotze surpassed a milestone of her own, becoming Central's all-time hits leader.

HUMBOLDT STATE WINS SPRING INVITE: Shelli Maher's clutch hitting lifted Humboldt State to a 4-2 win over Western Washington before the Jacks' offense unloaded again in a 10-0 drubbing of Western Oregon at the Humboldt State Spring Invitational on Sunday. Humboldt posted a 5-0 record in the tournament and improved to 8-0 overall. Inclement weather on Saturday changed the event format, eliminating championship round play, making no clear winner apparent. Sunday's opening game was a tight contest that Western led briefly, 1-0 before Maher provided the key hit for HSU in the bottom of the first. Humboldt State All-American pitcher Jessame Kendall earned the victory, improving her record to 4-0 while allowing only two unearned runs. Western Washington hurler Amanda Grant kept the Jacks off balance with her change-up for much of the game, striking out eight while allowing six hits. In a format that allows one player selected from each participating team, Maher was Humboldt's representative on the all-tournament team.

LOPES LEADS AASU TO CO-TITLE AT UNF OSPREY: Armstrong Atlantic State's Maria Lopez helped AASU clinch a co-championship title this weekend at the UNF Osprey Invitational by defeating Northwood University. Lopez only gave up one earned run and sat eleven down, including the final out of the game. AASU was leading 1-0 in the top of the sixth went Northwood came back to tie and then go ahead by one. AASU fought back with five hits in the bottom of the sixth to score another five runs to go ahead for good and win by a score of 6-2. AASU is now 13-0 while Lopez is 6-0. Five Pirates recorded RBIs in the game, while Lopez drove in two runs with a double in the sixth.

PEACH BELT MEMBERS USC-SPARTANBURG, FRANCIS MARION, FINISH ONE-TWO IN QUEENS COLLEGE (N.C.) TOURNEY: USC-Spartanburg won the Queens College South Atlantic Invitational over the weekend and Francis Marion finished second. Both teams went 5-0 and were the only unbeaten teams in the tournament. Rain on the second day pushed the tournament behind schedule, so a championship game was not played. USC-Spartanburg was awarded the championship based on best run differential. USC-Spartanburg pitcher Maricela Panuco was named tournament MVP, posting a 3-0 record with 36 strikeouts and allowed one earned run in 19.2 innings pitched. She also hit .421 with a double, triple and home run.

Upcoming Tournaments:

March 9-12  Fresno State Classic Fresno, California  Host: Fresno State University                  March 9-10 Speedline Invitational                            Tampa, Florida Host: University of South Florida           March 10-13  National Invitational San Jose, California Host: San Jose State University                   March 10-12 OU/Worth Invitational Norman, Oklahoma Host: University of Oklahoma                                             March 10-11 Lady Vol Spring Invitational Knoxville, Tennessee  Host: University of Tennessee           March 10-12 Crimson Classic Tuscaloosa, Alabama Host: University of Alabama                                                 March 10-12 Missouri Round Robin Columbia, Missouri Host: University of Missouri
March 10-11 Missouri Southern Classic Joplin, Missouri Host: Missouri Southern State College March 10-12 FMU Patriot Invitational Florence, South Carolina Host: Francis Marion University March 10-12 March Madness Fremont, California Host: Ohlone College March 12-13 Connors State Tournmament Warner, Oklahoma Host: Connors State College March 11-17 Disney's Spring Training Orlando, Florida Host: Disney's Wide World of Sports March 10-11 Virginia Wesleyan Invitational Norfolk, Virginia Host: Virginia Wesleyan University
 Through March 31 Rebel Spring Games Ocoee, Florida