Melyssa Lombardi was surprised when she heard Mike White left Oregon for Texas after nine successful seasons as softball coach.
The longtime Oklahoma assistant was also intrigued by the opening.
“I was hoping I’d get a phone call,” Lombardi said.
That call came around July 4th and less than one week later, Lombardi was Oregon’s softball coach.
“We looked for somebody who had a tremendous track record to build on the foundation here and everywhere we turned to experts in college softball, we kept hearing the name Missy Lombardi,” Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said when introducing Lombardi Monday at Jane Sanders Stadium. “As we got to meet her, we knew there was great alignment. Our values matched hers in what she has done in her incredibly successful career and where that fits with where our program was.”
Lombardi first saw Oregon’s two-year old stadium when Oklahoma lost 5-0 to the Ducks in a matchup of top-five teams on April 19.
“I remember when we got off the bus and walked up to see how beautiful the stadium was and fans were already here, so the environment was awesome,” Lombardi said. “I walked into a lion's den. I felt like we walked in and out and it was that quick. Even though it did not go our way, I loved every minute of it. I could see myself here. At the time did I think the job would be open? Not at all, but when this position opened, it was something that had my interest.”
Lombardi had interviewed for other jobs during her 21 seasons with the Sooners, including the last 11 years as associate head coach.
“I felt like I was a little picky,” she said. “I knew when the right opportunity came that it would be time to go. I felt like this was the right opportunity.”
Lombardi, a former catcher for the Sooners, had been the pitching coach for Oklahoma, which led the nation with a 1.12 ERA last year. Oregon was fifth on that list at 1.38 led by All-Americans Megan Kleist and Miranda Elish, who both return next year along with Maggie Balint.
“When you think of softball, you think of pitching and you can go a long way with three No. 1 pitchers,” Lombardi said. “The offense is great, defensively we lost most of the infield but we have great freshmen coming in. I am looking forward to it.”
Kleist was pleased the Ducks replaced White with another coach whose specialty is working with pitchers.
“That was real important not only for me, but for the girls coming in who were recruited by coach White,” Kleist said. “If you are a pitcher you want to learn from someone who knows pitching so it is important to bring in someone who has a resume like she does.”
Lombardi was on staff when the Sooners won four national titles, including back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017. Oregon has won five Pac-12 titles and made five trips to the Women’s College World Series since 2012.
“Oregon has been successful and I look forward to the challenge of winning Pac-12 championships and national championships,” Lombardi said. “My standard doesn’t change. I expect to compete every year for championships.”