Arizona State transfer drove in 10 runs, handled pitching staff during 5-0 finish at Puerto Vallarta Challenge

It appears Terra McGowan was worth the wait.

The talented catcher had to sit out last season after the Pac-12 denied McGowan’s request for immediate eligibility last February because Arizona State, the school she transferred to Oregon from, would not consent to her waiver.

At the Puerto Vallarta Challenge in Mexico last weekend, McGowan led the Ducks to a 5-0 start by going 8-for-19 at the plate with a team-high 10 RBIs.

McGowan also handled a pitching staff that combined for 52 strikeouts and only three walks while posting a collective 0.44 earned-run average.

No. 21 Oregon returns to action on Friday at Houston.

“Everybody kept asking me if she was nervous. No,” second-year coach Melyssa Lombardi said of McGowan’s anticipated debut. “I feel like she’s just been waiting and waiting patiently to play. Then when she got her opportunity, she didn’t want to miss one opportunity.

“It was nice to see her behind the plate with her leadership, it was nice to see her at the plate with her power, driving runs in. That’s what we’re expecting her to do this year.”

McGowan had three doubles and a grand slam as the Ducks outscored their first five opponents by a combined 34-2.

“It was real exciting,” McGowan said. “I didn’t have any nerves or jitters, I just wanted to play for them. They’ve been working so hard the past two seasons. I was just ready to play for them.”

Lombardi had McGowan shadow her in the dugout throughout last season’s 22-30 finish (5-19 Pac-12) when Jordan Dail was the only scholarship pitcher on a roster ravaged by attrition during the coaching transition.

During the offseason, McGowan also established a rapport with transfers Brooke Yanez and Samaria Diaz and freshman Makenna Kliethermes.

All four pitchers saw action in Puerto Vallarta.

Yanez was named the NFCA national pitcher of the week after going 3-0, including a 17-strikeout performance against BYU. Dail pitched a complete-game 1-0 shutout of Nevada and picked up a save in the 4-1 win over Long Beach State.

“I learned a lot, whether it be about hitting or catching,” McGowan said of her redshirt season. “I was always right next to (Lombardi) helping her call pitches, picking things. I definitely think it was a new perspective for me that I wasn’t used to.

“I benefitted a lot and I definitely learned how to handle Jordan. Watching Shaye (Bowden) catch Jordan helped me a lot this past weekend for sure.”

Oregon is one of only four teams yet to commit a defensive error. No one attempted a steal against the Ducks during the staff’s dominant weekend, but McGowan did pick off a runner at first base.

McGowan started all five games at catcher and hit third with Bowden, an emergency fill-in behind the plate last season, remaining in the deeper lineup as the designated player.

“Having her behind the plate is really good,” Yanez, who has 25 strikeouts, two walks and a 0.50 ERA with three appearances, said of McGowan. “We’re at the point where we’re reading each other’s minds. She knows what I want to throw at certain times, and I know what I can tell her to where she’ll understand.

“It’s getting really good. Our relationship is really growing, which is nice.”

Lombardi said McGowan’s presence is like having an assistant in the lineup.

The coach and catcher made last year’s wait worthwhile.

“Because she couldn’t play, I really wanted her front and center,” Lombardi said. “Throughout the whole year, she pretty much sat next to me and I would talk with her a lot and ask her what she thought about certain things and talked to her about. ‘Hey, go get in the huddle right now and let’s get these guys going.’

“She didn’t feel like she was just sitting out. She felt included, she felt like she was learning how to be a leader. So when she did get her opportunity, it wasn’t like she was starting all over. She felt like she already had that experience and that dialogue, I guess, to go along with it.”

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