Minutewomen Claim Prestigious Leadoff Classic Title
Feb. 23, 2003
COLUMBUS, Ga. - The No. 25-ranked University of Massachusetts softball team defeated No. 11 Florida State, 2-1, to win the championship of the NFCA / Leadoff Classic Tournament. The Minutewomen were one of five teams with a 3-0 record and then claimed the tiebreaker by run differential. With the win, UMass moves to 5-3 on the young season. UMass defeated No. 18 Oregon State, 7-1 on Friday and No. 20 Pacific, 6-3 on Saturday, before topping the Seminoles today.
"This weekend was all about the team," said Head Coach Elaine Sortino. "Our kids did an outstanding job both offensively and defensively."
UMass defeated the Seminoles behind the strong pitching of sophomore Kelli Arnold (Kalama, Wash.). Arnold held the high-powered Seminoles to just four hits and one run, while walking three and striking out four. Of the four hits, only one was to the outfield.
"Kelli pitched the best game of her career today," said Sortino. "All three pitchers started a game in this tournament and all three pitched magnificently."
The UMass offense was held in check, but got on the board first in the bottom of the third inning when senior shortstop Emily Robustelli (Stamford, Conn.) cranked a solo homer for a 1-0 advantage. The homer was her second of the season. Florida State tied the game at 1-1 in the sixth inning when Shandra Colzie led off the inning with a single, and was moved to second on a walk. Colzie moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a one-out double. However, Arnold got out of the bases-loaded jam by getting Carly Brieske to pop out and Beth Wade to ground out.
In the bottom of the seventh, senior Brandi Cross (Diamond Bar, Calif.) opened the inning with a walk, and was pinch-ran for by sophomore Denise Denis (Middle Grove, N.Y.). Katie Jo Kelley (Rainier, Ore.) moved Denis to second with a sacrifice bunt and she moved to third on a passed ball. After Kaila Holtz (North Vancouver, Bristish Columbia) grounded back to the pitcher for the second out, Denis raced home on a wild pitch to give the Minutewomen a 2-1 victory and the NFCA / Leadoff Classic title.
Arnold was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, and she was joined on the All-Tournament team by Robustelli. Arnold picked up a win and a save in the three games, allowing one earned run in 7.2 innings pitched, striking out six and walking two. Robustelli was 2-for-9 in the tournament with two solo homers, three runs scored and two RBI.
The NFCA's eighth annual Leadoff Classic featured 24 of the nation's top collegiate softball teams, including defending Women's College World Series champion California. The Golden Bears were one of six squads playing in the Leadoff Classic after ending last season at the Women's College World Series. Of the 24 teams in the field, 19 competed in NCAA postseason play in 2002. Eighteen of the nation's top 25 (according to the USA Today / NFCA Top 25 national poll) were in the field.
The Minutewomen will be in action next at the Speedline Invitational in Plant City, Fla., on March 6-9. UMass will face North Carolina at 2:00 p.m. on March 6, and fifth-ranked Washington at 4:00 p.m.
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