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Stanford’s NiJaree Canady denied OSU on the recruiting trail and at WCWS

NiJaree Canady could have been a cowgirl.

That cute hypothesis collided with brutal reality Friday night in Oklahoma City as Stanford ace Canady defeated the Cowgirls 8-0 in the Women’s College World Series.

An Oklahoma State team with championship aspirations went two-and-done at the WCWS without scoring a point.

After being shut out by Florida freshman Keagan Rothrock, the Cowgirls continued their slump against Canady, the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.

Coming out of Topeka High School, where she won back-to-back Kansas softball state championships, Canady signed with Stanford over finalists Arizona and UCLA. Canady also made two unofficial visits.

One to Kansas. Another one for OSU.

“I remember everyone was really nice,” Canady said of her trip to Stillwater. “The coaching staff there is incredible. Just building a relationship with them was really good.

“But yeah, I’m really happy where I am now.”

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Canady, just a sophomore, defeated fellow Player of the Year finalist Lexi Kilfoyl.

Kilfoyl, the Cowgirls’ senior ace, coughed up four runs in 3 ⅔ innings.

Canady allowed three hits and three walks. She struck out seven batters. Canady improved to 23-6 with an ERA of 0.72.

Roxy Moran, a former Cal State Fullerton pitcher who has personally coached the Canadys for the past seven years, was in the audience Friday evening.

“You know, I always knew,” Moran said. “I knew from the first day I worked with her, she was special. She just proved it. The whole world knows now.”

Canady wasn’t at her sharpest on Friday, needing 100 pitches to get through six innings, but she quickly ignored any signs of danger. The Cowgirls were hitless in nine at bats with runners on base.

“The hardest balls we hit were collected,” OSU coach Kenny Gajewski said.

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Stanford coach Jessica Allister admitted her ace was tired. Canady suffered an injury late in her performance.

“Just to see her kind of struggle through that, it’s one of the best performances I’ve seen,” Allister said. “Absolutely incredible.”

It was the second time Canady denied the Cowgirls.

Katherine Canady, NiJaree’s mother, accompanied NiJaree during her visit to OSU.

Katherine called Gajewski “a great coach.”

“Kenny really wanted her to come there, but he said, ‘Nija, you know, you can’t beat a Stanford education.’ Not many coaches have ever understood that.”

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Katherine and Bruce Canady still live in Topeka, but make frequent trips to the West Coast. Not only to see NiJaree at Stanford, but also their son BJ, who is a defensive lineman at Cal.

NiJaree Canady, who pitched Stanford to the Women’s College World Series in back-to-back years, is arguably the biggest star in college softball.

A superstar.

“Well, I wouldn’t say superstar,” Katherine Canady said with a smile.

The number of fans Canady has in Oklahoma City, especially for a non-OU or OSU player, says otherwise.

“The kids look up to her,” Katherine Canady said. “I love it and she loves it. You don’t see too many black women in that position. For her to even be there and represent, it’s just amazing.”

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Joe Mussatto is a sports columnist for The Oklahoman. Do you have a story idea for Joe? Email him [email protected]. Please support Joe’s work and that of other Oklahoma journalists by making a digital subscription today at Subscribe.oklahoman.com.