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WCWS Game 9: Canady Wins Freshman Pitching Duel to Lead Stanford into WCWS Semifinals

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The Pac-12 doesn’t get a lot of national television exposure because of its media rights deal. The conference had the ABC spotlight all to itself on Sunday afternoon and showcased how bright the future will be in the circle.

Stanford’s NiJaree Canady and Washington’s Ruby Meylan staged a riveting pitching duel between freshman aces.

Canady came out on top, throwing a one-hit shutout to lead No. 9 Stanford to a 1-0 victory over No. 7 Washington in an all-Pac-12 elimination game at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

Stanford (47-14) advances to the semifinals to face No. 1 Oklahoma on Monday at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.

Kylie Chung provided Canady the only run she would need in the sixth inning, dropping a single into short left field with two outs that scored Taylor Gindlesperger from third.

Canady (17-2) gave up a single to Baylee Klingler to lead off the game and didn’t allow another hit to the final 24 batters. She finished with nine strikeouts and no walks in 95 pitches, with 75 being strikes.

Meylan was the hard-luck loser for Washington, giving up four hits with five strikeouts and one walk in 6.0 innings.

But the battle between Midwest-raised rookies had fans glued to their seats, knowing how crucial every baserunner was as the zeroes accumulated on the scoreboard.

“It’s an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel that we don’t see much of,” Stanford head coach Jessica Allister said. “But it was going to be whoever bent first.”

Washington (44-15) was one of the few lineups in the nation to give Canady any trouble this season when the Huskies took two of three at Stanford in the regular season in May. 

Canady, a Topeka, Kansas native, suffered her only regular-season loss to UW and gave up her only home run, a three-run shot by Kelley Lynch. Even in the lone victory over the Huskies, Canady allowed a season-high eight hits.

For perspective, Canady entered Sunday having given up just six earned runs to all other teams in 31 appearances and 123.0 IP, and Washington had accounted for 14 of the 59 hits against her.

But the Huskies didn’t have as much luck in Oklahoma City.

After Klingler led off the game with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, Canady stranded Klingler by rolling off a run of five straight strikeouts, including striking out the side in the second.

Meylan, an Omaha, Neb., native was up to the challenge, retiring the first seven Stanford batters before allowing a hit to Ellee Eck in the third. Eck tried to score from second on a single up the middle by Taylor Gindlesperger, but was thrown out at the plate by freshman Brooklyn Carter with a great tag by catcher Sydney Stewart to end the inning. 

Stanford threatened again in the fourth inning after Aly Kaneshiro drew a walk and pinch runner Emily Jones beat the throw to second on a fielder’s choice by Chung. But the Cardinal stranded runners on second and third.

“I just like knew that, in order for us to win, I couldn’t give up more than a run or none because NiJaree is like an amazing pitcher,” Meylan said. “That was just my goal, and I just wanted to do it for the rest of the team.”

Washington took advantage of back-to-back errors to put two runners on in the sixth with one out. Canady didn’t flinch, getting Madison Huskey to ground out for the second out and Lynch to fly out to end the threat.

That’s when Stanford made its final move. A team that is well-versed in playing close games with minimal offense came through in the clutch again.

Gindlesperger beat out an infield single to second to lead off the sixth. She stole second with two outs and advanced to third on a throwing error by Stewart that rolled into center field. The bespectacled Chung dropped a single into short left field on a full count to score Gindlesperger for the only run of the game.

“I feel like our at-bats got better throughout the game,” Chung said. “I feel like we all had confidence, if we just kept sticking with it, that something was going to fall. I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what happened.”

Canady struck out Jadelyn Allchin on three pitches for the final out to secure the win and set up a rematch against two-time defending champion national Oklahoma, which beat Stanford 2-0 in the WCWS opener. Stanford needs to beat the Sooners twice on Monday to have a chance to play for the title.

Canady wants to the journey to last as long as possible. Even though she’s a freshman, she realizes how special it is to play in OKC and how many players never get the experience.

“I can’t believe I’m here right now. This is the biggest stage to play softball on,” Canady said. “To have an opportunity to play here with this team, it’s incredible.”

Player of the Game 

NiJaree Canady, Stanford

The freshman flamethrower extended her amazing college debut season. She threw a one-hit shutout, striking out nine and walking no batters to improve to 17-2. Canady faced 25 batters and threw 95 pitches, with 75 being strikes.

For the season, Canady has 212 strikeouts and 20 walks while allowing only nine earned runs in 130 IP.

“We knew she was special when we were recruiting her,” Allister said. “When I called NiJa on September 1st, I told her, ‘I think you’re the best pitcher in the country.’ It wasn’t a ‘let’s bring you in here and bring a couple other pitchers in here and see who says yes.’ She was my first phone call, and I told her, I think you’re the best pitcher in the country, and I think that I have proven to be correct.

The End of the Road

The fact that Washington even made the WCWS was remarkable given how close the Huskies were to being eliminated in the NCAA regional in Seattle. But they staged an improbable comeback to score seven unanswered runs in the seventh inning to beat McNeese State 7-6 in the regional final. The “Miracle on Montlake” won’t soon be forgotten even though Washington came up short in OKC.

“My fellow fifth years, we pretty much grew up together. We started at the World Series, and we were just saying how cool it is we’re getting to end our career at the World Series,” Washington’s SilentRain Espinoza said. “Like Coach (Heather) Tarr said, we’re just trying to leave this program better than we found it. We stayed all our five years to do that and made sure that was done. I hope we did that.”

Up Next 

  • Stanford advances to the semifinals to play No. 1 Oklahoma on Monday at noon ET (ESPN)
  • Washington is eliminated