Melyssa Lombardi isn’t holding any grudges.
The Oregon softball coach wished the nine players who left the program before the start of the season well in their future endeavors.
And during the Ducks’ final series against Arizona State, which begins Thursday at Jane Sanders Stadium, Lombardi says she is not seeking revenge against the program that denied catcher Terra McGowan’s appeal to play immediately after transferring to Oregon.
“To me, it’s about two teams getting on the field and playing and giving everything you’ve got. Afterwards you go and shake each other’s hands,” Lombardi said. “That’s how you do it the right way. I have no personal issue with Arizona State, with their head coach, nothing like that, not at all. I’m excited to play them this weekend. They’re a great team, they’re very explosive.
“I know it’s going to be a tough weekend, but personal vendettas, I don’t really operate that way.”
Despite being eliminated from the postseason last Sunday, the Ducks (22-27, 5-16) have established a foundation during Lombardi’s trying first season for a brighter future.
Jasmine Sievers was selected to the all-Pac-12 first team announced by the conference Wednesday. The freshman shortstop is batting .344 with a team-high 14 doubles and 19 extra-base hits.
Sophomore pitcher Jordan Dail, who is second nationally with 232 2/3 innings pitched, is on the all-conference second team. Freshman second baseman Allee Bunker and junior center fielder Haley Cruse are on the third team.
Third baseman Rachel Cid joins Bunker and Sievers are on the Pac-12’s all-freshman team.
“We have a big future ahead of us, and I think we all know that,” sophomore catcher Shaye Bowden said. “We knew this year was going to be a building year and we were going to have to grind and do everything we could. I think people had to step up and get through adversity. Most teams don’t have to go through what we did this year.
“To think about the personalities, and everything we’re going to give next year, it’s unbelievable in my head how amazing we’re going to do next year.”
Lombardi said the team’s focus this weekend will be finishing on a high note for the four seniors on the roster.
April Utecht and Cherish Burks have been regular starters, outfielder Darya Kaboli-Nejad suffered a torn ACL before the season began and soccer player Bayley Bruner joined the shorthanded squad to add some speed.
For many fans of the program, it’s difficult to think about what might have been had the projected returners from last year’s Women’s College World Series team stayed following Mike White’s departure for Texas.
Megan Kleist, the 2018 Pac-12 pitcher of the year, and Alexis Mack, the projected leadoff hitter, were the two seniors-to-be who left the program.
“I think these girls that stuck around did everything they could to give us their best,” Bowden said. “They had to step up into a role they didn’t expect to step up into. They’re doing absolutely amazing at what they do, and we respect them with all of our hearts.”
After Oregon granted stating catcher Mary Iakopo her release to transfer to Texas and play immediately, Lombardi was hoping McGowan would be eligible to fill the hole behind the plate.
Instead, the freshman will finish her redshirt year watching her former team helplessly from the Oregon dugout.
“I’m a believer in things work the way they’re supposed to work,” Lombardi said. “There’s a reason why we weren’t supposed to have her this year. Why? I don’t now because we definitely could have used her. … We’re doing things right here, there’s no question. You look at these athletes, they love to play for each other, they love to play for this program.
“So we just have to keep riding it out, we just have to continue pushing it forward. That’s what we’ve been doing all year. We’ve gotten a lot of payoff this year because of how they’ve gone about things.”