When tasked with finding a new head softball coach, UO athletic director Rob Mullens turned to the softball community. He kept hearing one name; Missy Lombardi.
“We looked for somebody who had a tremendous track record to build on the foundation here and everywhere we turned to experts in college softball, we kept hearing the name Missy Lombardi,” Mullens said when introducing Lombardi Monday at Jane Sanders Stadium.
Two decades assisting legendary Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso and developing one of the top pitching staffs in the nation has prepared Lombardi for her first head coaching position.
The Lombardi era at Oregon begins after the departure of former coach Mike White.
Worried that Ducks softball will take a step backwards? Here are three reasons why Oregon softball's dominance could continue under Lombardi.
1. No roster turnover
Lombardi does not expect any UO players to follow White to Texas or to leave for another school. She inherits one of the best pitching staffs in the country in Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Megan Kleist, junior Miranda Elish and junior Maggie Balint. Also, Oregon returns its entire outfield, including all-conference players Alexis Mack and Haley Cruse.
Many of the returners were at Lombardi's introductory press conference in Eugene and have shown support for their new coach on social media.
2. Pitching coach expertise
Lombardi spent 21 years as Oklahoma’s pitching coach. She developed the staff that led the nation with a 1.12 ERA last season, and led the NCAA in ERA three of the last seven seasons.
"You think of softball, what do you think of? You think of pitching," Lombardi said. "You have three number ones (in Kleist, Elish and Balint), you can go a long way."
3. National championship experience
The Ducks have knocked on the door to a national title for a decade but have yet to bring the hardware back to Eugene. Lombardi has four national titles under her belt from her time at Oklahoma.
"She knows what it takes to get there," Kleist told GoDucks.com. "And from what she says, she has everything we need to get there, and win it.”
Lombardi has said there are some nuggets she's learned during her WCWS experience that can help get the Ducks over the hump.
Bonus: Home field advantage at Jane Sanders Stadium
Lombardi said she was blown away when then top-ranked Oklahoma visited Jane Sanders Stadium on April 19. The Ducks beat the reigning two-time champs, 5-0. She described the environment as a "lion’s den."
Now, that lion's den is Lombardi's recruiting haven. Lombardi has said she is excited to recruit to the two-year-old, state-of-the-art stadium and ravenous Eugene softball community.