WCWS Game 5: Stanford’s Vawter and Canady Combine to Eliminate Fouts and AlabamaPostseason
When Alabama and Stanford meet in the postseason, it’s a race to be the first team to cross the plate. Because there probably won’t be a second.
A year after Stanford stunned Alabama in a regional in Tuscaloosa, each of the three meetings between the teams settled by shutout, the Cardinal’s 2-0 win ended the Tide’s stay in the 2023 World Series. The Cardinal eventually added a second run, both RBIs in the game courtesy of Sydney Steele, but the program’s first run in the World Series in 19 years proved to be enough.
It took all of the combined brilliance of All-American Alana Vawter and newly-named NFCA Freshman of the Year NiJaree Canady to bring an end to the Montana Fouts era in college softball. Making her first start since the opening game of Alabama’s super regional, Fouts pitched her first complete game since injuring her left knee in the SEC tournament.
Fouts allowed just five hits, no walks and two earned runs in her final career appearance, but Vawter (5.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER) and Canady (1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER) combined on a one-hitter.
How it happened
Bottom of the first: The first frame belonged to Taylor Gindlesperger. Stanford’s leadoff hitter started the top of the inning with a double off Alabama shortstop Kenleigh Cahalan’s glove. She didn’t make it any farther than third base, but in the bottom of the first, she made sure the Tide wouldn’t get any early runs either by taking this potential leadoff hit away from Ashley Prange.
Top of the second: Emily Schultz made it two leadoff runners on base in as many innings when she hit a single off Fouts and subsequently moved to second base on a sacrifice. Young had battled some tough luck in her first two postseasons, 4-for-34 entering Friday’s game, but she picked a good moment to add to her total. Young came home with Stanford’s first World Series run in 19 years on Sydney Steele’s double into the right-center gap.
Steele wasn’t the most likely hero, either. She went 2-for-3 against Jordy Bahl in Stanford’s opener but had just 14 hits this season entering the World Series. Stanford 1-0.
Bottom of the third: Vawter only had to face Ashley Prange in the third because of an error behind her earlier in the game. Stanford’s senior otherwise breezed through her first time through the Alabama order. But Prange’s two-out single up the middle broke up Vawter’s no-hit bid. But Prange was still on first base when the inning ended one batter later.
Bottom of the fifth: Cameras showed a huddle in the Alabama dugout, with Patrick Murphy emphatically pointing at Fouts, as if to suggest to the rest of the team that if the ace could give all she had (and more), they needed to do the same. But that was easier said than done against Vawter on this night. Murphy tried to mix things up, pinch hitting Lauren Esman to lead off the frame, but Vawter struck out both Esman and Kali Heivilin and retired the side on 15 pitches.
Bottom of the sixth: Vawter retired Kristen White easily enough to begin the inning, but that didn’t stop the Cardinal from going to NiJaree Canady as the top of the Alabama lineup came to the plate for the third time in the game. Following Vawter’s steady diet of low movement, Canady promptly struck out Ashley Prange on a rise ball. Then she got more than a little bit of help from Kaitlyn Lim for the final out.
Top of the seventh: Did we mention Steele has come alive in the postseason? Her home run provided the Cardinal with a valuable insurance run. Steele had one home run and one double in the regular season. She matched that in seven innings with the season on the line. Stanford 2-0.
Stanford will next take the field Sunday against the loser of Saturday’s game between Florida State and Washington. The last time the Cardinal were in the World Series, with Jessica Allister behind the plate in 2004, they lost their opening game, then won two in a row to reach the semifinals—bowing out only after a 12-inning marathon against UCLA. With the way Canady and Vawter are throwing, another run and some extra-inning marathons both look possible.