The Oregon softball program needed something to celebrate after having nine players leave the program in the months leading up to the start of Melyssa Lombardi’s first season as coach.
But the Ducks were subdued on the way home from Tempe, Ariz., after finishing 5-0 at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.
“The plane ride home was quiet, actually,” Lombardi said. “They were tired.”
The shorthanded squad returned to practice Tuesday inside the Moshofsky Center with renewed energy.
Oregon moved up six spots to No. 19 in the coaches poll after scoring 53 runs and hitting .389 as a team with 33 walks and 18 strikeouts over the weekend.
Rachel Cid was named the Pac-12 freshman of the week after hitting .471 (8-for-17) with three home runs and a team-high 10 RBIs.
Playing third base, the position Jenna Lilley starred at for the past four seasons, Cid went 3-for-3 with a home run and four RBIs in the 14-5 season-opening win over Kansas.
“Jenna Lilley is always going to be a hard position and a hard person to replace. I don’t think anyone can replace her,” sophomore utility player Shaye Bowden said. “But I think we have one of the best third basemen and one of the best hitters in the country with Rachel Cid.”
Two other freshmen, Hannah Galey and Jasmine Sievers, came through with timely home runs during Oregon’s 8-6 comeback victory over Seattle University on Sunday to escape the tournament with an unblemished record.
“In a tournament every game is going to be difficult, but it’s that last game that’s going to be the hardest,” Lombardi said. “Fatigue has set in a little bit and there’s a lot of different factors. I was curious to see how they were going to handle our final game. …
“I loved seeing the comeback and the fight and the effort. Those are the things that I care about.”
With 2018 Pac-12 pitcher of the year Megan Kleist, co-ace Miranda Elish and then 2019 projected ace Maggie Balint all leaving the program, Lombardi must lean on transfers Jordan Dail (3-0, 2.51 ERA) and Maddie MacGrandle (2-0, 5.91 ERA) to get Oregon through the season.
The left-handed duo allowed a combined 25 hits and 17 earned runs in the circle.
“Going into the weekend, I’m sure this team felt a little pressure, a little jitters,” Lombardi said. “But I would think the two that felt it more than anyone else were the pitchers. We gave up some runs. But what I walk away from the weekend knowing is there were plenty of times we were in jams, and to me that’s when you really get to see something from an athlete.
“Watching them get out of that jam is big.”
Mary Iakopo, the heir apparent to Gwen Svekis, was one of the four players from last year’s Pac-12 champion team that transferred to Texas to reunite with Mike White.
Freshman transfer Terra McGowan has not been granted her release from Arizona State.
April Utecht started the first four games at catcher and Bowden, who hit .500 with a home run and six RBIs, spelled her behind the plate in the fifth game.
“I have obviously only known Jordan for about two months, but I trust her as a person, which helps me trust her on the field,” Bowden said. “Being thrown into the catcher position, obviously it’s difficult to get back out there and do those things, but I think because we have such a bond together as a group, even with Maddie as well and with April, we just have to trust each other.
“Without each other we have nothing.”
Oregon’s fast start will be put to the test with games against No. 8 LSU, No. 18 Kentucky, No. 23 James Madison and unranked Florida Atlantic beginning Friday at the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational in Clearwater, Fla.