Cowgirls fall to Stanford in World Series elimination game as Canady throws 3-hitter

The Associated Press - June 1, 2024 12:35 pm

By CLIFF BRUNT AP Sports Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — With the season on the line, Stanford’s NiJaree Canady delivered the kind of performance one might expect from the best player in college softball.

The sophomore threw a three-hitter and the Cardinal defeated Oklahoma State 8-0 in six innings on Friday night in an elimination game at the Women’s College World Series.

Canady, the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, struck out seven and walked three to bounce back from an opening loss to Texas on Thursday.

She was tired, but it didn’t matter.

“We had conversations with her, being completely transparent this morning,” Stanford coach Jessica Allister said. “‘Are you good to go? We’ve asked a lot of you.’ She said, ‘Yeah, coach, I want the ball.’

“I think that speaks to her as a competitor. To have the performance that she had — I can’t say enough about what that means for the team, what she did today.”

It was Stanford’s fourth win in an elimination game this postseason.

“Just really proud of the team today,” Allister said. “Really, really proud of the way we came back. Not surprised. We’ve been resilient all year. We’ve been really resilient in the postseason. We’ve played really well in elimination games. We’ve pushed back.”

Aly Kaneshiro, Ava Gall, and Caelan Koch each had two hits for No. 8 seed Stanford (49-16). The Cardinal will play the loser of Saturday’s Oklahoma-UCLA game in an elimination game on Sunday.

The pitching matchup featured Canady and Oklahoma State’s Lexi Kilfoyl, a top-three finalist for the player of the year award. Canady leads the nation in earned run average while Kilfoyl is second.

Kilfoyl lasted 3 2/3 innings and gave up four runs on five hits before she was replaced.

“Credit them,” Oklahoma State coach Kenny Gajewski said. “They made things happen here tonight against one of the best pitchers in the country. I didn’t think Lexi was particularly sharp, but they still took advantage of that. That’s what good teams do. That’s why they’ll advance.”

It was Oklahoma State’s fifth straight trip to the World Series, and it was another disappointing finish. The fifth-seeded Cowgirls (49-12) have reached the semifinals just once in those trips and never made the championship series. They did not score in their two games.

Stanford, which has struggled to produce runs in previous World Series games over the years, had no problem on Friday. Jade Berry’s double in the third scored two and put the Cardinal up 3-0.

Stanford’s Kaitlyn Lim hit a solo homer in the fourth — just her fifth of the season — leading Oklahoma State to pull Kilfoyl.

Stanford increased its lead to 6-0 with two runs in the fifth.

Oklahoma State’s Micaela Wark hit one deep to center to start the fifth that could have ended the shutout, but Stanford’s Emily Jones caught the ball at the wall. Her glove came down on the top of the fence, but she held on.

“Sometimes with outfield, you don’t get to see the great plays all the time because it takes kind of the perfect ball,” Allister said. “Nothing that she does out there surprises us because we see it in practice every day.”

Oklahoma State got two runners on in the sixth, but Canady ended the game with a strikeout, even after she hit her knee with the ball while delivering a pitch late in the game.

Allister had no updates on Canady’s status.

“We’ll find out, right?” Allister said. “It’s late. It’s almost midnight. Got a day off tomorrow, which is going to be important. We’ll have those conversations as we go. But we’ll worry about that tomorrow.”

 

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