Super-Softball: Canady leads Stanford to Super Regionals for third straight year

Super-Softball: Canady leads Stanford to Super Regionals for third straight year

Stanford Softball came out on top in the regional competition this past weekend and advanced to the Super Regionals for a third-straight season. Coming into the weekend, sophomore pitcher NiJaree Canady was prepared to be utilized a lot — “I feel I am in pretty good shape for that. It’s something that we have worked on a lot,” Canady said. The sophomore from Kansas backed up her words in the circle.

Road to the final

Against Saint Mary’s (30-24, 10-6 WCC), Canady was perfect. Not a single Gael reached a base against her. The Cardinal had a great start at the plate and built an early 7-0 lead after just two innings of action.

Regan Krause stepped in as a relief pitcher. The NFCA All-West Region First Team had a slow start, which, along with defensive hiccups by the Cardinal infielders, allowed the Gaels to cut the deficit to a single run. Stanford responded immediately, extending the lead to two (8-6). Canady returned to the game in the top of the fifth and secured the victory for Stanford giving up no hits and striking out seven. 

On Saturday, against Mississippi State (34-20, 12-12 SEC), Canady picked up where she left off. In the opening three innings, she retired all nine batters with seven strikeouts. In the meantime, the Cardinal had taken a 2-0 lead. The Bulldogs homered in the top of the fourth. Canady remained calm.

“After the home run, I just think, flush it in, just get the next one and that’s all you can really do”, she said. That was the only run she allowed in the game. The Cardinal remained undefeated and secured a spot in Sunday’s final.

The final

The other finalist was Cal State Fullerton (CFSU) (39-19, 22-5 Big West) coming out victorious from back-to-back elimination games. Krause started strong in the first two innings giving up no run and the Cardinal scored in the top of the second. However, the lead was short-lived as the Titans scored in the next four innings and won the match 1-8.

Heading into their fourth elimination game in a row, the Titans had the momentum and were feeling no pressure. “We kind of had nothing to lose. You know, we were playing the No. 5 team in the country and we are No. 72. So statistically, we are going down, ladies. Just have fun and let freedom really be what our game is about,” said CSFU’s head coach Kelly Ford. “You could feel the pressure from the other dugout”, she added.

Ford’s words depicted reality. 

The Titans kept their momentum in the second game and plated a pair of runs in the top of the second. Stanford was five innings away from elimination. 

Under pressure, Canady pitched a path word. In her own words: “Just compete. Just leave it all on the field.” In the top of the third, it took her eight pitches to strike out all three batters. Stanford stepped up its offensive game too. In the bottom of the third, Taryn Kern tripled. Then she was able to slide under a tag and score on a fielder’s choice from Kyra Chan.

Next Gall walked advancing Chan to second base and both came around to score on a double to the left center from Aly Kaneshiro. Kaneshiro plated herself on an RBI single from sophomore shortstop River Mahler. 

The Cardinal took a 4-2 lead and Canady took it personally. “Nija’s energy is so contagious and just fires me up all the time,” Kaneshiro said. “She came into the huddle after the third inning when she struck out a side and she was screaming and was like, they will not score after this.” 

Canady’s words proved prophetic. In the remaining four innings, she had eight strikeouts and allowed no runs securing the victory for the Cardinal. “I don’t know that I’ve seen a performance like what NiJa did after the second inning,” Allister confessed.”

Up next

The Cardinal will host No. 9 LSU (43-15, 12-12 SEC) in Super Regionals this upcoming weekend. The best-of-three series will begin on Friday at 7 p.m. PT, and will be broadcast on ESPNU. The second game is scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m. PT and, if needed, the third game will be on Sunday.

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