Rachel Cid and the rest of the Oregon softball kids had to grow up fast.
With the graduation of Jenna Lilley, DJ Sanders and Lauren Lindvall, coupled with the last-minute departure of Mia Camuso, the Ducks fielded a completely new starting infield this season.
First-year coach Melyssa Lombardi has watched a handful of freshmen develop into potential stars during a bumpy campaign, which closes with the final regular-season series this weekend against Arizona State at Jane Sanders Stadium.
Cid was named the Pac-12 freshman of the week for the second time after hitting .750 with two doubles and five RBIs during the three-game series at Utah.
“Rachel, she’s a great athlete,” Lombardi said. “She’s been leading on the field toward the end of the season as well. The growth for her and the rest of the freshmen has been tremendous this year. To take this experience into their next three years, it’s hard because right now you don’t see it maybe, but next year we’re going to be sitting here talking and you’re going to go, ‘Gosh, do you remember last year? And wow, I can’t believe what that has done.’
“Those are the conversations that we’re going to be having about them.”
The 5-foot-3 Cid arrived on campus from Tracy, Calif., expecting to have a major role in the program.
“(Lilley) definitely was a player I’ve looked up to,” Cid said. “I know I’ve talked to her in the past, and when I see her now we always say hi. She always says it’s great to see me fill in her shoes.
“I know that she’s had a legacy here and I know I have big shoes to fill, but I’m doing the best I can.”
Cid has started all 49 games this season and is hitting .268 with 37 hits, six doubles, nine home runs and 31 RBIs.
Oregon lost nine key players during the coaching transition and pitcher Maddie MacGrandle quit the team during the season.
Due to the attrition suffered by the pitching staff, Cid has made four relief appearances in the circle to give Jordan Dail an occasional breather. Last weekend she played shortstop in place of an injured Jasmine Sievers.
“It’s definitely been a tough one, it’s something that I wasn’t expecting coming in,” Cid said. “We’ve been hit with a lot of adversity this year, and I think it’s made us better people. …
“It’s been a lot of fun with the people that have stayed.”
Sievers is batting .344 with a team-high 14 doubles during her freshman season. Second baseman Allee Bunker, another freshman, is hitting .348 with a team-high 55 hits.
Lombardi had planned on having freshman transfer Terra McGowan as the starting catcher with the graduation of Gwen Svekis and the transfer of Mary Iakopo, but Arizona State denied her appeal to play immediately.
Sophomore Shaye Bowden has filled in admirably behind the plate and leads the team with 32 RBIs.
“We lost a bunch of amazing players throughout the infield, but I think we gained a lot of people that are going to develop over the next three years that they have here,” Bowden said. “It’s only going to get better from here. They’ve already shown so much now. Imagine what they’re going to be like their senior year.”
The Ducks (22-27, 5-16) were eliminated from the postseason after dropping two of three games in Salt Lake City. During Oregon’s win last Saturday over the Utes, Cid was 4-for-4 with two doubles and a season-high four RBIs.
“It’s something we can really build on for next year,” Cid said of the experience the freshmen have gained with so many opportunities to contribute and help Lombardi rebuild the program. “I’ve seen us from the beginning grow as a class. I know this class is going to do big things.
“Our class is very talented, and I just can’t wait to see how we do in the future.”