Oregon has to hope Melyssa Lombardi’s transfer problem is temporary

·3 min read

It may be nothing. Really, it could be just nothing.

College athletes come and go these days via the transfer portal. It happens every year to every single school in every single sport. The NCAA has made it extremely easy for student-athletes to change schools since they don’t have to sit out a year after transferring. Kids are even switching schools within the same conference, something that was rarely done just five years ago.

It is especially prevalent when a new coach comes to town.

But then again, for the Oregon Ducks softball team, it may be something. And if it is something, Oregon and its athletic director Rob Mullens have a problem.

That problem is players entering Melyssa Lombardi’s softball program and then almost immediately as soon as they can, they leave her softball program.

The departure of all-Pac-12 selection Alyssa Brito, Mya Felder, and Jazzy Contreras brought back bad memories of the mass exodus of players when Lombardi was hired in 2018. But those players stayed, saw her off-season program, and then decided to bolt.

Most of those players, such as Lauren Burke, Maggie Balint, Miranda Elish, and a whole host of others that decided Oregon and Lombardi’s way of doing things just wasn’t for them. It got so bad that the Ducks were calling for open tryouts on campus just to fill out a 2019 roster.

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Some of those players who left went to Texas to play for their coach Mike White. That’s understandable and it happens all the time. But Brito, Felder, and Contreras didn’t play for White.

Contreras hardly played in her two years in Eugene, so her leaving wasn’t exactly a surprise. She wants more playing time and hopefully, she finds that elsewhere. But Brito and Felder are curious cases.

Felder was one of the Ducks’ best hitters in 2020 as she hit .356 in Oregon’s 22 games that were played before the pandemic. In 2021, it seemed like she continued where she left off, batting nearly .400 through March. But then Felder was plagued with a two-month slump that not only saw her average dip to .274, but her place in the order went down and most likely her confidence.

It’s unusual for a hitter that good go through a slump for that long. It begs the question of whether something was going on behind the scenes. If she was injured, Felder likely wouldn’t have been out there.

As for Brito, there was no slump. Actually quite the opposite. She played outstanding the entire season both in the batter’s box and in the field at shortstop. She hit .299 with 10 homers and drove in 31 runs. Everything was going her way.

But her announcement to transfer came just days after the season ended. Although it’s easier and common, players don’t take this particular decision lightly, so it’s very possible that when Brito was playing in the Austin Regional, she knew her playing days as a Duck was nearly over.

For Oregon and Lombardi’s sake, hopefully, it’s just these three that have decided to leave. The off-season isn’t even a week old, so odds are, there will be more players exiting Eugene.

The third-year coach has proven she can bring in the talent. But can she keep it? If not, Mullens has to address whatever issue that lies beneath and fixes it now.