CLERMONT — Dot Richardson's National Collegiate Softball Invitational on Feb. 12-14 signals a new direction for softball tournaments in South Lake County because when these eight Division I schools square off on the diamond it will be a clash of the titans with five of the teams ranked in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate preseason Top 25.
The tournament at Legends Way Ballfields at the National Training Center/Lake-Sumter Community College campus, located at 2350 Legends Way in Clermont, features UCLA (preseason rank No. 6), University of Michigan (No. 3), University of Central Florida, University of Oklahoma (No. 10), Florida Atlantic University, University of Tennessee (No. 18), University of Georgia (No. 8) and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
“What’s going to be fun to watch is with this group of teams, you will potentially have four of them in the College World Series,” said Dr. Dot Richardson, Director & Medical Director of the National Training Center (NTC) and Olympic gold medalist on the 1996 and 2000 USA softball teams.
An event pass purchased in advance online at www.ntcsoftball.com costs $20, or $25 at the gate. A day ticket is $10. For children, age 6-12, an event pass is $10 and a day ticket is $5. Children, age 5 and under, are free. The schedule for the tournament is:
Friday, Feb. 12
- 12 p.m. — Stadium: UTC vs. FAU; Field 2: UM vs. UT
- 2 p.m. — Stadium: UT vs. FAU; Field 2: UM vs. OU
- 5 p.m. — Stadium: UGA vs. UCLA; Field 2: OU vs. UCF
- 7 p.m. — Stadium: UCF vs. UCLA
Saturday, Feb. 13
- 8-10 a.m. — College Invitational Combine
- 11 a.m. — Stadium: OU vs. FAU
- 1 p.m. — Stadium: FAU vs. UCLA; Field 2: OU vs. UTC
- 3 p.m. — Stadium: UT vs. UCLA; Field 2: UM vs. UTC
- 5 p.m. — Stadium: UGA vs. UM; Field 2 UCF vs. UT
- 7 p.m. — Stadium: UGA vs. UCF
Sunday, Feb. 14
- 9 a.m. — Stadium: UM vs. UCLA; Field 2: UT vs. OU
- 11 a.m. — Stadium: UGA vs. UTC
- 1 p.m. — Stadium: UGA vs. FAU; Field 2: UCF vs. UCF
Bright House Sports Network (channel 47) will broadcast the Friday UGA vs. UCLA game live at 5 p.m. and will replay it on Feb. 16 at 12 p.m. and Feb. 18 at 9 p.m. The UCF vs. UCLA game will be tape delayed on Feb. 13 at 12 p.m. and will replay on Feb. 15 at 2 p.m. and Feb. 17 at 3:30 p.m.
“What I’m hoping to do with this invitational is to continue to invite colleges from Division I and build it just like the Division I tournament they have in California,” Richardson said. “I would love for the Southeast to have its own marquee Division I college softball tourney. “
Commitments are already flooding in for the next installments of Dot Richardson's National Collegiate Softball Invitational. Expected for the 2011 tourney are Florida State University, Georgia Tech, Michigan State University and Ohio State University. Teams penciled in for 2012 are University of Florida, University of Alabama, University of Texas and Baylor University.
“The beauty of this event is it kicks off these teams’ seasons, and for us, it kicks off a major string of events at our facility,” Richardson said.
After Dot Richardson's National Collegiate Softball Invitational, the Legends Way Ballfields will host the 2010 NTC Spring Games, which features 165 college softball teams from Feb. 22-April 2. The college teams journeying to Lake County, mostly from the Northeast and Midwest, will be competing in official games and practicing outdoors. The event will feature 760 games with games every day (weather permitting) and local residents can watch any of the games for only a $20 event pass; five weeks of fast-pitch softball.
The Central Florida Sports Commission estimates the NTC Spring Games will generate more than $6.4 million in the local economy as the 165 out-of-state college teams will be staying in hotel rooms and generating sales tax revenue.
The $3 million Legends Way Ballfields was designed and constructed in March 2008 for fast-pitch softball as a partnership between the Lake County Board of County Commissioners, Lake-Sumter Community College and NTC. According to Greg Mihalic, Director of Lake County Tourism & Business Relations, Lake County pitched in $2 million from hotel bed taxes, the college secured $1 million in grants and donated the land and South Lake Hospital through the NTC is responsible for managing the facility.
“This blossoming facility illustrates why we need more sports infrastructure in the community,” Mihalic said. “The NTC puts on a lot of different kind of events — track & field, swimming, triathlons and softball — they have a lot of diversity in the events they can handle. In addition to the events, the training they provide to athletes provides for thousands of hotel room nights.”
For more information about planning a vacation in Lake County, call (800) 430-LAKE, log on to www.lakecountyfl.com or visit the Lake County Welcome Center, located at 20763 U.S. Highway 27, Groveland.