Oregon’s Lombardi Pitching a Championship Strategy

Jordan Ingram Editorials

In the post-Mike White era of Oregon Ducks softball, the program under Oregon head coach Melyssa Lombardi continued its astonishing upward trend in the virus-shortened 2020 season.

Lombardi appears laser-focused on turning around a program following the departure of White, one of the most successful softball coaches at Oregon. The Ducks struggled in Lombardi’s first season, finishing with a 22-30 overall record (5-19 conference) in 2019.

However, early in the 2020 campaign, the Ducks played like a top-tier NCAA Division I softball team. And that was in large part due to Lombardi’s recruitment of a stellar pitching crew comprised of Oregon senior transfer Samaria Diaz (New Mexico State), junior transfers Jordan Dail (Virginia Tech) and Brooke Yanez (UC Davis), and freshman Makenna Kliethermes.

Junior lefty ace Brooke Yanez is one of several strong pitchers recruited to Oregon by Lombardi.

But if Lombardi’s 21-year coaching success under Oklahoma head coach Patty Grasso is any indication of Oregon’s future, Duck fans can expect truly great things.

Since 1998, former pitching coach Lombardi helped the Sooners earn 15 Big 12 championships and four national championships, all of which were buoyed by strong performances from the circle, including both Paige Parker, the four-time Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and four-time All-American, and Paige Lowary, who was drafted No. 1 overall in the National Pro Fastpitch League by the Chicago Bandits in 2018.

Former All-American pitcher Kami Keiter, who led the Sooners to back-to-back Women’s College World Series appearances in 2003 and 2004, told The Oklahoman how Lombardi transformed her performance on the mound:

“The biggest impact she had on me was to control my emotions on the mound at the beginning of my college career. That allowed me to grow and be a true leader.”

Lombardi’s championship experience highly suggests a bright future for the Ducks.

Lombardi’s attention to detail is what has elevated her as one the most successful softball pitching coaches in the country. ”[Lombardi] made our training unique and individual and I think that’s special,” former Sooners All-American pitcher Michelle Gascoigne told The Oregonian.

“She’s going to be steady, she’s going to work for you and is very thoughtful and intentional with the workouts you do.”

And Lombardi’s detail-oriented coaching style seems to be taking hold for the players in Eugene with an astonishing 22-2 record in the 2020 non-conference schedule and a national ranking of No. 9. The season ended at the beginning of the Pac-12 conference season, but it is apparent great recruiting and coaching are emerging at “The Jane.” 

The optimism for next season is climbing due the announcements of seniors Haley Cruse (Hit .457 and led the team in hitting three years in a row) and pitcher Samaria Diaz (1.00 ERA!) deciding to return for a final year to play for Our Beloved Ducks.

It is clear the award-winning coach has a vision for the program, and perhaps, a WCWS crown of her own someday in Eugene?

Jordan Ingram
San Diego, California
Top photo from Twitter

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