Melyssa Lombardi's 5-0 squad faces three ranked teams this weekend in Florida
The St. Pete/Clearwater (Fla.) Elite Invitational won’t feature a grudge match between No. 19 Oregon and No. 11 Texas.
But first-year coach Melyssa Lombardi’s 5-0 Ducks will face several high-profile opponents this weekend at the Eddie C. Moore Complex, where Mike White’s 5-0 Longhorns are also competing in the softball showcase.
Oregon opens the event Friday with games against No. 8 LSU (9:30 a.m., SEC Network) and No. 23 James Madison (2:30 p.m., streaming on ESPN3).
On Saturday, the Ducks play Florida Atlantic (7 a.m., no television) and No. 18 Kentucky (1 p.m., ESPNU).
“We know what we’re getting into,” Lombardi said of the big step up in competition. “To me, it’s this team getting caught up into our game plans and understanding how to pass the bat. And for each one really understanding what their role is and work hard in their role.
“It’s the preparation. If we come in and we’re prepared, that will allow us to do some things that we want.”
Oregon moved up six spots in the coaches poll after averaging 10.6 runs while dominating the Kajikawa Classic last week in Tempe, Ariz.
Freshman third baseman Rachel Cid led the attack by hitting .471 (8-for-17) with three home runs and a team-high 10 RBIs.
After losing nine players during the coaching transition, including four projected starters transferring to Texas, it was important for the young Ducks to get off to a fast start.
“We’ve kind of banded together as a group in the last few months and we worked together a lot,” said sophomore utility player Shaye Bowden, who is hitting .500. “We’re best friends on and off the field, and I think that’s really important to the success we had this weekend.
“We trust each other, we work with each other and we build off each other.”
Lefty Jordan Dail (3-0, 2.51 ERA) is expected to get the start against the Tigers (7-0), who opened the tournament with a 3-1 win over No. 20 Oklahoma State on Thursday.
“We’re not necessarily focused on who’s ranked and who’s not, who throws hard, who doesn’t,” Dail said. “We’re more worried about just playing our game and making sure we’re doing the right things.”
LSU will also play Texas on Friday. Former Oregon pitcher Miranda Elish threw her second consecutive shutout Thursday during the Longhorns’ 10-0 run-rule win over California.
The Ducks say they’ve moved on from the winter of discontent for their ex-teammates, but playing well with White lurking around the complex in Clearwater, Fla., would have to feel good.
“I think our upcoming opponents are going to be more challenging, the Pac(-12) is going to be more challenging, but I don’t think it’s a challenge we’re going to fail at,” Bowden said. “I think it’s something that’s going to help us grown and something we’re going to continue to thrive in. That’s what important is we keep progressing.”