Last season, the Oregon Softball team won the PAC-12, made it to the College World Series, and was set to return all but four of their stacked roster.
But after the departure of Coach Mike White, a decision ultimately made by AD Rob Mullens when he refused to match the offer from the University of Texas, the softball roster has completely crumbled under new Coach Melyssa Lombardi.
Seniors Gwen Svekis, DJ Sanders, Jenna Lilley, and Lauren Lindvall were the only four players from the 2018 team that were expected to be missing from this year’s squad, but ten other players have left since the hire of Lombardi.
Below is a list of Oregon’s outgoing transfers, most of which were starters and fan favorites.
- Jr. Megan Kleist - transferred to Louisiana Lafayette
- So. Miranda Elish - transferred to Texas
- Fr. Lauren Burke - transferred to Texas
- Fr. Mary Iakopo - transferred to Texas
- So. Shannon Rhodes - transferred to Texas
- So. Maggie Balint - expected to transfer
- Recruit Alyssa Pinto - transferred to Ole Miss
- Jr. Alexis Mack - expected to transfer
- So. Mia Camuso - expected to transfer
- Jr. Madi Bishop - off the roster
A few transfers are always expected, but losing an entire pitching staff and nearly all your upperclassmen (only 4 of the 12 now-juniors and seniors remained with the team after White left) signifies a larger problem than just growing pains.
Offseason interviews and articles suggest that Coach Lombardi is demanding an immediate buy-in to her system, which includes demolishing the remnants of the Mike White dynasty, an era that produced five World Series appearances, nine straight super regional appearances, and five PAC-12 championships.
Kleist, Mack, Camuso, Burke, Rhodes and others helped to establish a passionate fanbase, but now that they’re gone it is on Coach Lombardi to establish a team that will play at a level worthy of Jane Sanders Stadium’s raucous capacity.
The list above includes irreplaceable talent, for example Miranda Elish who threw Oregon’s first ever perfect game last year, as well as players that had become synonymous with the team, like now-Senior Megan Kleist. After almost a full career as a Duck, her departure is the most concerning as she was often mentioned as the team’s leader. It makes sense that Lombardi was forceful in setting her standard, but the loss of Kleist in particular feels devastating to the Duck faithful.
Maggie Balint told Baseball America that she felt lied to when it became clear that freshman transfer Terra McGowan from Arizona State would not be eligible until 2020, a fact that Lombardi apparently did not make clear.
Balint was quoted in Baseball America saying, “She’s been denied by the NCAA. In December when they posted she was on the team, I thought she was good to go. Now it’s January and I’m finding out that she isn’t cleared . . . that was pretty much a lie to my face.”
She went on to say, “there was some dramatic event that happened every day, and that’s just not something I want to be a part of.”
2019 SOFTBALL ROSTER
Despite all the chaos, there is still a season to be played, and Coach Lombardi will be able to earn back some credibility by taking her group of young players (out of the 19 players on the roster, 10 are freshmen and three are sophomores) alongside a few transfers and a handful of starters who decided to return.
Last season, the Ducks were PAC-12 Champions; this season, Oregon was picked to finish last due to the offseason turmoil. Lombardi begins her head coaching career with low expectations and an angry fanbase. However, if she’s able to keep this team from spiraling, and even find some relative success, she could ease some of the offseason pain.
Senior - 5’9 - Catcher/First Base - Richland, Washington
One of two returning seniors on the team, Utecht is primed to become a starter after playing in 25 games last year but starting in only one. She hit four home runs and a double last year.
Senior - 5’5 - Outfielder - Manteca, California
Burks will likely transition from bench player to starter as she has more experience than most of the roster. She played in 35 games, starting in one, and finished the season with a .364 batting average with three home runs and a double. Was used as a pinch runner often, including in her score against Arizona State in the World Series.
Junior - 5’7 - Outfielder - San Diego, California
Cruse is now Oregon’s most decorated player: Second Team All-Pacific Region, Third Team All-PAC-12, and PAC-12 All-Academic Second Team. Last season, she posted a .426 batting average in conference games, hit two home runs and 11 doubles.
She will undoubtedly be a reliable source of productivity on a team that is full of questions.
.@haley_crusee led all Pac-12 hitters with a .426 batting average in conference play last season, 70(!) points better than second place— Oregon Softball (@OregonSB) February 5, 2019
The junior leads the Ducks into the 2019 season Friday at the Kajikawa Classic. #GoDucks pic.twitter.com/Gy46agut7n
Sophomore - 5’6 - Utility - Phoenix, Arizona
As a freshman, Bowden had 27 appearances and 20 starts, making her one of the most experienced players on the roster despite being just a sophomore.
Senior - 5’2 - Outfielder - Omaha, Nebraska
Above are the five returnees from last year, on to the new talent!
Freshman - 5’6 - Infielder - Mission Viejo, California
Coming in at No. 10 on FloSoftball’s hot 100 ranking, Sievers is Oregon’s highest ranked recruit of 2018.
Freshman - 5’9 - Utility - Scappoose, Oregon
Galey may have missed some of her senior year due to injury, but she still had time to rack up seven home runs, 47 RBIs and 40 runs while accumulating a .556 batting average.
Freshman - 5’8 - Catcher - Mission, Viejo
Since McGowan transferred from Arizona State she’ll have to sit out this season, assuming ASU doesn’t decide to give her permission to play early. Usually, collegiate softball allows for transfers to play immediately, but when a player transfers to a school in the same conference, they must sit out a year unless the original school allows them to play.
McGowan, a top 25 recruit, would have likely been a starter and could have potentially swayed Maggie Balint to stay if she had been eligible this season.
Freshman - 5’3 - Infielder - Tracy, California
On the Extra Inning Softball Elite 100 list Cid ranks No. 9 and comes in at No. 11 on FloSoftballs Hot 100 rankings.
Freshman - 5’5 - Utility- Huntington Beach, California
Four-year starter at Huntington Beach High School where she finished with a .412 career batting average, 35 doubles, 11 home runs, 91 RBIs, 101 runs and 49 stolen bases.
Freshman - 5’7 - Outfielder - Venetia, Pennsylvania
Wagner made a name for herself in Pennsylvania by batting .680 with 14 home runs and 39 RBIs- good enough to become the 2018 Gatorade Pennsylvania softball player of the year.
Sophomore - 5’6 - Left-Handed Pitcher - Forest, Virginia
Dail started her collegiate career at Virginia Tech, where she finished 12th in the ACC with 116 strikeouts. She also finished fifth with a .209 opponent’s batting average. She’ll have a lot to live up to after Oregon’s last pitching staff and will most definitely see some playing time due to the Ducks’ depleted roster.
Sophomore - 5’11 - Left-handed pitcher - Frisco, Texas
MacGrandle transfered from Texas A&M and could very well be Oregon’s go-to pitcher despite her lack of experience. Out of her eight games played, she started seven, compiled a 5-1 record with two complete games. In that stretch she finished with an ERA of 2.60.
Freshman - 5’9 - Catcher - Portland, Oregon
Excited about the addition of local walk-on Annalisa Williamson to our 2019 roster! The catcher was a first-team all-league selection at Jesuit High School in Portland. Welcome to the family, Annalisa! #GoDucks pic.twitter.com/X0og6UdkHs— Oregon Softball (@OregonSB) January 16, 2019
Bayley Bruner (Walk-On)
Senior - 5’7 - Utility - Draper, Utah
Four-year letterwinner for the Oregon Soccer team, hopes to contribute as a pinch runner.
Bailey Cook (Walk-On)
Junior - 5’5 - Utility - El Dorado Hills, California
Katelyn Howard (Walk-On)
Freshman - 5’11 - Infielder - Long Beach, California
Kailey Krueger (Walk-On)
Freshman - 5’5 - Right-handed Pitcher - West Linn, Oregon
Anna Mills (Walk-On)
Freshman - 5’3 - outfielder - Portland, Oregon
Lombardi’s team will have to be nothing short of perfect at the upcoming Kajikawa Classic if they expect to live up to their recent reputation. In the last four years, Oregon has lost just one of their 24 games at the Kajikawa Classic, a 6-8 loss to No. 17 Kentucky in 2016, and last year beat the competition by a combined score of 73 to 12, forcing five straight run rules.
Coach Lombardi clearly has a lot to live up to - not just in Tempe, Arizona, but in Eugene as a replacement of Coach White - and there is no better way to quiet the growing crowd of critics than once again dominating the Kajikawa.
We’ll end this article with a fun hypothetical: imagine if Lombardi were to take this team back to the playoffs, and through some sick twist of fate managed to get matched up against the Longhorns. Most likely a pipe dream considering the offseason drama, but an intriguing thought experiment nonetheless.
KAJIKAWA CLASSIC SCHEDULE
- KANSAS - Friday (2/8) - 10:30 AM - PAC-12 NETWORK
- CSUN - Friday (2/8) - 4:30 PM
- MISSOURI - Saturday (2/9) - 8 AM
- BRADLEY - Saturday (2/9) - 4 PM
- SEATTLE - Sunday (2/10) - 8 AM - PAC-12 NETWORK