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Feb. 24, 2005

Columbus, Ga. – For the third consecutive year, South Carolina softball travels to Columbus, Ga. to participate in the annual National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s (NFCA) Leadoff Classic, Feb. 25-27. USC will open against Southern Illinois (3-4) at Noon on Friday, and follow with No. 8 Michigan (8-1) at 2:30. On Saturday, the Gamecocks will face No. 15 Georgia Tech (13-0) at 10:00 am.

There will be 11 of the top 25 ranked teams in the country competing at the Leadoff this year. 20 of the 24 teams at the Leadoff competed in the NCAA Tournament regionals last year while four were in the Women’s College World Series, including USC opponent No. 8 Michigan.

This marks the seventh overall appearance for the Gamecocks at the tournament. USC has a 21-9-1 record at the Leadoff and claimed the title in 1997. In tournament play, Carolina has previously faced Southern Illinois and Michigan. USC defeated SIU 3-1 back in 1999 and against Michigan the Gamecocks are 2-0 with wins in 2003 (3-0) and 2004 (2-1). This marks the first meeting against Georgia Tech at the Leadoff.

Leading the charge for the Gamecocks are Meghan Cornett with a .419 average and Jessica Josker with a .392 average. Josker leads the team in hits with 20 while Cornett has 18 hits and is the team’s leading scorer with 11 runs. In the circle, Jessica Barnes is 4-3 with a 1.57 ERA while Melanie Henkes is 4-2 with a 1.62 ERA.

The Salukis of Southern Illinois are looking to snap a two-game losing streak as they have suffered losses to UNLV and No. 14 Florida. USC will be the third SEC team the Salukis will have faced this season. SIU is 0-2 against the SEC so far this year. In addition to Florida, the Salukis lost to Ole Miss 1-0. Their leading hitter is Kelly Creek who has a .476 average and has seven RBI.

The Wolverines are on a eight-game win streak and their only loss so far came in their first game of the season, 6-7 to then 17th-ranked Baylor. The only other win against a ranked opponent was 9-0 against 13th-ranked Oregon. Tiffany Haas is leading with a .563 batting average and has 18 hits so far on the season. Michigan has three more players that are hitting over .400. Jennie Ritter is 4-0 with a 1.40 ERA in four appearances and 25 innings pitched. Ritter also has 40 strikeouts on the year.

Georgia Tech is one of five remaining unbeaten teams in the Top 25. The Yellow Jackets are coming off of wins over Evansville and Georgia State. This will be the first SEC team Tech has faced this year. Christine Sheridan has 19 hits, nine RBI and a .475 average while Jessica Sallinger is 8-0 with 0.89 ERA in 55 innings pitched. Sallinger leads the team with 73 strikeouts.

USC will play SIU, Michigan and Georgia Tech in pool play. Upon conclusion of pool play, the Gamecocks will then advance to bracket play for a chance to claim a medal title: bronze, silver or gold. Last year, the Gamecocks were the runners-up in the silver medal bracket.

All USC games can be heard live via Internet audio at or on Gametracker.