Sunday afternoon, the 2017 Hillsdale College softball team gathered with friends and family for a beginning-of-the-year picnic.
By Monday afternoon, the players found out they would be getting to take an unexpected additional trip to Florida to start its season.
Hillsdale is one of 24 Division II teams nationwide participating in the 2017 NFCA Division II Leadoff Classic, scheduled for Feb. 10-12 in Clearwater, Florida. This marks the first time the Chargers have been asked to participate in the most prestigious early season tournament in NCAA Division II softball. Hillsdale will play five games across the three-day tournament against many of the top programs in the country.
"Being invited to the Leadoff Classic is a milestone for our program," said Hillsdale College coach Joe Abraham. "It is a prestigious event and we are pretty certain Hillsdale has never been a part of it. When we received the invite, we immediately knew we had to figure out a way to go. It is a tribute to all the work that our players have put in over the last several years."
The Chargers got this kind of national notice thanks to their terrific 2016 season. Hillsdale went 26-12 last year, finished third in the GLIAC and came within a hair's breadth of making the NCAA Tournament. Abraham was named the GLIAC Coach of the Year, and two players – Sarah Klopfer and Bekah Kastning – were each named First-Team All-GLIAC.
Specific dates and opponents for the three-day event will be announced later.