Melyssa Lombardi is down to 12 players with McGowan sitting out, Darya Kaboli-Nejad injured

The Oregon softball program’s battery continues to take a beating.

Projected starting catcher Terra McGowan’s initial appeal to play for Oregon in 2019 has been denied.

The Pac-12 requires players transferring within the conference to sit out for a year, unless the original school signs a release for immediate eligibility. Arizona State has not signed that release, sources told The Register-Guard.

Oregon announced McGowan’s transfer from Arizona State in a news release on Jan. 7, which indicated the freshman would be playing for the shorthanded Ducks during the upcoming season.

“She brings a lot to the table,” first-year coach Melyssa Lombardi said of McGowan before the team’s first practice of the season on Jan. 15. “She does a great job behind the plate, she can swing for power, she can hit gaps, she runs well.

“I think she’s going to be a great leader on the field. I think our pitching staff is going to enjoy throwing to her. I think you’re going to see a young leader emerge.”

 

Mary Iakopo, the heir apparent to graduated catcher Gwen Svekis, is one of four players who transferred from Oregon to reunite with coach Mike White at Texas.

Maggie Balint, who Lombardi expected to lead the depleted pitching staff, said finding out that McGowan would not be eligible until the 2020 season was a factor in her decision to leave the program last week.

“My expectations were not met, and Terra is not cleared to play as of right now,” Balint told Softball America. “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.”

Balint, starting outfielder Alexis Mack and starting first baseman Mia Camuso all announced they were entering the NCAA transfer portal last week.

Since the three players were already taking classes at Oregon and practicing during the winter term, their scholarship money will remain in place through the end of the trimester, per terms of the financial aid agreements they signed.

Megan Kleist, the reigning Pac-12 pitcher of the year, is paying tuition to finish her degree at Oregon after leaving the team in December. Last season’s co-ace, Miranda Elish, has transferred to Texas.

The unprecedented attrition currently leaves Lombardi with only 12 eligible and healthy players available to compete this season, which begins Feb. 8 at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.

Senior outfielder Darya Kaboli-Nejad has suffered a season-ending knee injury, according to sources.

Lombardi will have to lean on two transfer pitchers, sophomores Jordan Dail (Virginia Tech) and Maddie MacGrandle (Texas A&M), in the circle.

Senior April Utecht, sophomore utility player Shaye Bowden and freshman walk-on Annalisa Williamson are the remaining candidates to play catcher this season.

A total of nine players have left the team since White’s departure for Texas.

Former Marist High standout Lauren Burke and center fielder Shannon Rhodes are playing for the Longhorns alongside Elish and Iakopo. Freshman Alyssa Pinto is completing her transfer to Mississippi.

Outfielder Haley Cruse is the lone returning starter from the No. 1-seeded Ducks’ lineup at the Women’s College World Series last June.

“Everyone handles change differently, and they were used to one style of coaching and playing and they like that style, they wanted to stick with it,” Cruse said of her ex-teammates. “And everyone here respects and supports their decision. So we’re all really supportive of them.”