Stanford softball beats Duke to secure first College World Series win

Stanford freshman NiJaree Canady competed in Friday’s national softball match against Duke in Durham, NC and led the nation in the ERA by a .46.

Her ERA went up, but she still rose to the occasion. Canady went the distance and the Cardinals’ offense woke up in the late innings as Stanford went for a 3-1 decision.

If Stanford (44-13) wins Saturday, it will advance to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2004. If Duke (48-11) wins, it will be game 3 on Sunday.

Canady (16-1) allowed four hits — one after the first inning — walked one and knocked out nine. Her ERA skyrocketed to 0.49.

The Blue Devils, ranked No. 8 nationally, hit a run with three singles in the first inning. Canady said she was a little nervous, but that wasn’t uncommon.

“I feel like every time I step into the circle, these little butterflies are there,” Canady said. “And we’ve talked a lot about it, that means you care about something. They’re there all game, especially in the seventh inning, but that means I care.

“I feel like our entire team had those butterflies, but I think they’re a good thing.”

Duke head coach Marissa Young said Canady “throws really hard. She throws up in the zone which adds to the speed and she had great spin.”

The Blue Devils defeated Stanford and senior right-hander Alana Vawter 4-2 on February 11 in Irvine. Vawter has started more games than Canady (24 to 22) and has more complete games (17 to 9). Stanford head coach Jessica Allister explained her decision to choose Canady.

NCAA softball

Durham Super Regional

Best of 3 series. Winner advances to the Women’s College World Series.

Game 1: Stanford 3, Duke 1

Game 2: 6 p.m. Saturday ESPN2

Game 3 (if required): TBA, Sunday, TBA

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“It’s a good issue and I don’t think there’s any direction we could have gone wrong,” Allister said. “Duke hadn’t seen NiJaree and NiJaree put together a lot of really good games back-to-back here, so I’m really confident with everyone in the circle.”

Duke freshman left-hander Cassidy Curd was perfect in four innings. She opened the fifth game with a 3-2 win over Emily Young. Emily Jones ran for Young.

A key game came with an out. Emily Schultz hit a grounder right at third baseman Ana Gold. It could have been a double play late in the inning, but second baseman Aminah Vega dropped Gold’s throw and the Cardinal had runners on first and second base.

Kaitlyn Lim then delivered Stanford’s first goal of the day, a double into the left-center gap. Jones and Schultz scored, and Stanford also took a 2-1 lead for the first time.

The Cardinal, ranked No. 9 on the national seed list, extended the lead in the sixth game. With two outs and Ellee Eck in third place, catcher Aly Kaneshiro went the other way with a liner off the glove from Vega. The ball landed in foul territory and Kaneshiro charged for the second time to score a brace. Their team-leading 39th RBI of the season gave Stanford a 3-1 lead.

That ended Curd’s afternoon. Their record fell to 18-2.

Canady escaped a two-on-no-out jam in the fourth set. She eliminated nine times in a row and finished seventh. Claire Davidson opened the seventh with a double from the left field wall, but Canady responded with two strikeouts – each well visible – and a groundout to end the game.

Stanford celebrated, and another celebration this weekend sees the cardinal travel to Oklahoma City for the WCWS.

Reach Steve Kroner: [email protected]; Twitter: @SteveKronerSF


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