Softball season ends in WCWS semi-finals for second straight year

No. 8 Stanford (50-17, 17-7 Pac-12) ended its season falling 1-0 to No. 1 Texas (55-8, 23-4 Big-12). This was the second straight year that the team reached the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) semi-final.

The game was dominated by the outstanding pitching performances on both sides. Sophomore pitcher NiJaree Canady struck out seven, allowing zero walks and just five hits. Teagan Kavan threw a one-hit shutout for the Longhorns. However, the freshman received substantial help from her defense, who made spectacular plays in the outfield to prevent Cardinal hits. The Longhorns have yet to allow a run in the WCWS. Kavan, who faced just one more batter over the minimum, threw just 79 times, while Canady had 103 pitches.

Going into the last inning, the semi-final was tied 0-0. The top of the seventh opened with a fielding error by sophomore second-baseman Taryn Kern that put Alyssa Washington on first base. Next, to make matters worse, Joley Mitchell doubled to left center.

With runners on first and third and zero outs, all Texas needed was a sacrifice. The Longhorns played small ball. Ashton Maloney laid down a bunt. Washington seemed trapped into a run down between third and home. Sophomore shortstop River Mahler ran down the third-base line and attempted to tag Washington. When Mahler couldn’t apply the tag, she threw the ball to freshman first-baseman Ava Gall. But it was too late. Washington got her hand out in front of the tag to score the only run of the game.

Texas scored and had runners on second and third with no outs. Nevertheless, Canady got out of the jam. But despite her best effort, the damage was done. Stanford was unable to respond in the bottom of the seventh.

Stanford had a remarkable season. After four starters and a co-starting pitcher left  the program, it seemed impossible that the team would end the season in another WCWS semi-final. The Softball Collegiate Player of the Year carried the team, especially in the post-season where she threw  in all the final 39 innings of the season for a total of 581 pitches in a 10-day span.

“Obviously, NiJa was fantastic all week, fantastic today. Maybe one of the best performances in Oklahoma City that I have seen,” Allister said. “We had her on a short leash today. We were monitoring her closely, ready to make a change, and she was like, absolutely not. I think that competitor in her is unlike anything that I’ve ever seen.”

“I think that something I am most proud of is the way this team fought until the very last out. I’ll pick us every single time,” Canady said.

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