Stanford punches ticket to WCWS for second straight season

After dropping the opening game of the Super Regionals on Friday and bouncing back the next day, No. 8 Stanford (48-15, 17-7 Pac-12) completed its remarkable comeback on Sunday. The team beat No. 9 LSU (44-17, 12-12 SEC) 8-0 to advance to the Women’s College World Series (WCWS).

“To come back during Regionals and then to come back after a tough first day, it takes so much grit, it takes so much tenacity and it speaks to the strength of our team and obviously NiJa put together an unbelievable weekend,” said head coach Jessica Allister ’04. 

The Cardinal failed to capitalize on multiple occasions, with the biggest missed opportunity in the fourth inning when senior designated player Caelan Koch was barely tagged out at home plate. The game remained tied 0-0 until the fifth inning. 

In the top of the fifth the Tigers loaded their bases with only one out. The pressure was mounting for sophomore pitcher NiJaree Canady. However, she managed to get out of the jam with the help of her teammates.

“All you can do is just focus on the pitch and throw each pitch as best you can. So that’s what I tried to do and then Kyra made an amazing throw at home and Biggy [Kaneshiro] with the tag was just incredible,” said the pitcher from Kansas.

“Big people make plays in those moments and in that situation, I’ll take NiJa on the mound every single day and I don’t care how many outs. I don’t care who’s up. I don’t care who’s on the bases,” Allister said.

The momentum shifted. Sophomore shortstop River Mahler started the inning with a triple and was later plated on an RBI by sophomore center fielder Emily Jones.

That’s all the Cardinal needed to break the game wide open. They added three more runs before freshman third-baseman Jade Berry crushed a home run to bring home two more and extend the lead to 7-0, sealing LSU’s fate.

“[It gave us] so much momentum. It was an unbelievable hit. It just was awesome seeing her come home, and we were all screaming,” Koch said.

After another shutout inning from Canady, graduate right-fielder Kaitlyn Lim stepped into the box and wasted no time. On her first swing, she blasted a home run that ended the match on the 8-0 run-rule.

“It was awesome. I saw like half of her swing and I just saw the ball fly, my heart just stopped,” Koch said. 

“We were saying in the huddle to end it this inning. And personally I thought it was gonna take a couple more batters, but Kaitlyn took it in her own hands,” Canady confessed.

Stanford just punched its ticket to Oklahoma City for a second straight year for the first time in the program’s history.

“It’s very hard to get back [to WCWS]. I’m just going to try to cherish it because it’s an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Twice, if you’re lucky,” Canady said.

“We went my freshman year, and I had the same thought,” Allister said, who was involved in all of Stanford’s trips to the WCWS, two as a player and now two as head coach. “Like, this is just how it goes. And then we didn’t get back again until my senior year.”

However, the team’s ambitions are higher than last year.

“We’re ready to get back. Last year was good to be there, but this year, we definitely, we’re trying to go all the way,” Canady said.

Stanford’s opening game will be on Thursday, May 30 against No. 1 Texas at 5:00 p.m. PT. The two teams split earlier in the season.

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