Who is NiJaree Canady? Stats, highlights & more to know about Stanford softball star who nearly tamed Oklahoma

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NiJaree Canady
(Courtesy of Stanford Athletics)

Her team may have lost their first game of the 2023 Women's College World Series, but there was no bigger star on opening day than Stanford freshman pitcher NiJaree Canady.

Canady had an unenviable task in her first WCWS pitching assignment: Take on top-ranked Oklahoma, owner of the last two national titles and the longest winning streak in the history of the sport. The Sooners entered Thursday's game boasting a nation-leading .372 batting average, 8.39 runs per game and 112 home runs.

And yet, Canady held the overpowering Sooners scoreless and with just one hit through four innings. She finally yielded three hits and two runs — one off an error — in the bottom of the fifth before Cardinal coach Jessica Allister took her out of the game. Her final stat line: five innings pitched, four hits — all singles — one earned run and seven strikeouts in the 2-0 loss.

Moreover, Canady held Oklahoma without an extra-base hit for the first time in 105 games, and held them to their fewest runs scored in the WCWS since the Sooners lost 1-0 to Alabama in 2019.

MORE: Women's College World Series scores: Daily TV schedule, bracket, results

Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso called Canady "one of the hardest-throwing, ball-moving freshmen" she had ever seen following the latter's performance on the mound. She heaped yet more praise on the 2023 NFCA National Freshman of the Year:

"That was probably one of the most stressful, struggling first games we've had that I can remember in a long time," Gasso said.

Canady's freshman campaign isn't over yet; her 9-seed Cardinal will take on 5-seed Alabama in the losers bracket game on Friday, with the winner advancing for yet another chance to move onto the WCWS finals.

Here's everything you need to know about Canady following her performance against Oklahoma at the 2023 Women's College World Series:

Where is NiJaree Canady from?

Canady hails from Topeka, Kan., where she was a two-time Kansas Softball Gatorade Player of the Year and 2022 graduate of Topeka High School. There, she led the Trojans to back-to-back state titles in softball in 2021 and 2022, the former of which was the first ever for the program.

According to her Stanford bio, Canady had an astounding 0.26 ERA as a junior, with 232 strikeouts across 107 2/3 innings pitched; she also excelled at the plate, batting .478 on the season with 13 home runs. As a senior, she enjoyed a 0.82 ERA with 163 strikeouts over 74 2/3 innings pitched and hit .530 with 42 RBIs.

She was not only ranked the No. 11 recruit according to Extra Innings Softball, but was a four-star forward in basketball, per ESPN.

MORE: NCAA softball mercy rule, explained

NiJaree Canady Stanford stats

Canady entered the WCWS vs. top-ranked Oklahoma on Thursday with a nation-leading 0.48 ERA in 116 1/3 innings pitched. She had allowed just 55 hits and nine runs (eight earned) on the season through the super regionals.

Her excellence isn't a recent development, either: She has seven shutouts on the season, including no-hitters against Liberty on Feb. 12 and Villanova on March 3. She was one hit batter away from a perfect game against the Wildcats.

Though she did not have the outcome she wanted against the Sooners, she became just the fifth player in Stanford history to record 200 strikeouts in a single season after striking out seven Oklahoma batters. She currently ranks 26th nationally in that metric, while her hits allowed (59) and hits allowed per seven innings (3.4) rank 12th and third in the nation, respectively.

Here's a look at her pitching stats this year following Game 1 of the double-elimination portion of the Women's College World Series:

16-2 0.52 30 23 (9) 7 3 121.1 59 11 (9)

NiJaree Canady highlights

Below is Canady's outing vs. the Sooners, against whom she pitched five complete innings while allowing just four hits and two runs:

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Zac Al-Khateeb is a content producer for The Sporting News.