Softball beats UCLA to reach WCWS semi-finals

Yesterday, No. 8 Stanford (50-16, 17-7 Pac-12) completed its remarkable comeback beating 3-1 UCLA (43-12, 17-4 Pac-12) and advanced to the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) semi-final. The Cardinal snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Bruins in the final clash between Pac-12 athletics teams.

In the close battle, UCLA punched first. Megan Grant led off the second inning with a solo home run to left field to open the scoring. But sophomore pitcher NiJaree Canady retired the next three Bruins to get out of the inning. 

“I knew we were gonna score. So, my job there was just to try to keep it at one run and just get my team back in the dugout so we can score more runs,” said Canady.

Indeed, despite the 1-0 deficit, the Cardinal claimed the lead in the bottom of the third. Sophomore center-fielder Emily Jones opened the inning with a single. After right-fielder Kaitlyn Lim flied out, sophomore second-baseman Taryn Kern hit an RBI double to left center, plating Jones.

With the match tied 1-1, the Bruins brought in pitcher Taylor Tinsley who did not allow a run to the Cardinal during the regular season. However, this was about to change. 

First-baseman Ava Gall singled to right field giving Kern enough time to race home. The freshman from Lakeside, Calif. has delivered hits in all three WCWS games so far.

The Cardinal extended their lead in the bottom of the fifth. Jones and Lim opened the inning with bunt singles. Next, Kern advanced both runners on a groundout to first base. Finally, junior pinch-hitter Allie Clements plated Jones on a sacrifice fly.

Stanford was in the driver’s seat and the National Pitcher of the Year would not let this opportunity slip. Canady didn’t allow a run in the sixth or seventh inning to clinch the game for the Cardinal. She finished the match with eight strikeouts, no walks, no wild pitches, four hits and a single run.

“Coming back from a deficit. Getting a third run was really important. Really bouncing back after having a tough series against UCLA at our place in the regular season. Coming out and competing the way we competed today,” stated head coach Jessica Allister ‘04.

Next up, Stanford will face No. 1 Texas (54-8, 17-4 Pac-12). The fourth straight WCWS elimination game will be televised on ESPN2 at 4:00 pm PT. For the Cardinal, it will take a miracle to advance to the final.

The Longhorns will try to follow their recipe of success. With six starters above 0.450 on-base percentage (OBP), they will rely on small ball to apply offensive pressure and add runs on the board. Canady can stop them if she puts on another clinic. However, fatigue may tip the scale in Texas’ favor. Canady has thrown every Cardinal pitch so far in the WCWS, for a total of 289 pitches in 19 innings. If the Cardinal win and force a winner-take-all game two it will mean that the Kansas phenom may be asked to rack up 300 pitches in less than 24 hours.

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