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NiJaree Canady could've been a Cowgirl. Stanford softball star denied OSU again in WCWS.

NiJaree Canady could’ve been a Cowgirl.

That fun hypothetical collided with brutal reality Friday night in Oklahoma City as Canady, Stanford’s ace, blanked 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 run.

After getting shut out by Florida freshman Keagan Rothrock, the Cowgirls stayed stuck in 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 took two unofficial visits.

One to Kansas. Another to OSU.

“I just remember everyone being 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'm at.”

More: Despite WCWS sadness, Lexi Kilfoyl's Oklahoma State softball career should be celebrated

Stanford's NiJaree Canady (24) throws a pitch during the Women's College World Series game between the Oklahoma State Cowgirls and Stanford at Devon Park in Oklahoma City, Friday, May, 31, 2024.
Stanford's NiJaree Canady (24) throws a pitch during the Women's College World Series game between the Oklahoma State Cowgirls and Stanford at Devon Park in Oklahoma City, Friday, May, 31, 2024.

Canady, just a sophomore, outdueled 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. Canady improved to 23-6 with a 0.72 ERA.

Roxy Moran, a former Cal State Fullerton pitcher who’s been a personal coach of Canady’s for the last seven years, was in the crowd Friday night.

“You know, I always knew it,” Moran said. “I knew it from Day 1 working with her, she was special. She’s just proven it. The whole world now knows.”

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

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

More: Oklahoma State softball vs Stanford takeaways: Cowgirls ousted from WCWS in blowout loss

Oklahoma State head softball coach Kenny Gajewski argues a call during the Women's College World Series game between the Oklahoma State Cowgirls and Stanford at Devon Park in Oklahoma City, Friday, May, 31, 2024. riday, May, 31, 2024.
Oklahoma State head softball coach Kenny Gajewski argues a call during the Women's College World Series game between the Oklahoma State Cowgirls and Stanford at Devon Park in Oklahoma City, Friday, May, 31, 2024. riday, May, 31, 2024.

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

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

It was the second time Canady denied the Cowgirls.

Katherine Canady, NiJaree’s mom, joined NiJaree on her visit to OSU.

Katherine called Gajewski “an awesome coach.”

“Kenny really wanted her to come there, but he was like, ‘Nija, you know, you can’t beat a Stanford education.’ Not too many coaches were ever understanding that.”

More: How Oklahoma State's Karli Godwin became 'country strong' playing softball, hunting bears

Stanford's Kaitlyn Lim (21) celebrates after Emily Jones (18) made a diving catch in during the Women's College World Series game between the Oklahoma State Cowgirls and Stanford at Devon Park in Oklahoma City, Friday, May, 31, 2024.
Stanford's Kaitlyn Lim (21) celebrates after Emily Jones (18) made a diving catch in during the Women's College World Series game between the Oklahoma State Cowgirls and Stanford at Devon Park in Oklahoma City, Friday, May, 31, 2024.

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

NiJaree Canady, having 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 females in that position. For her to even be there and to represent, it’s just totally awesome.”

More: Pac-12 helped put NCAA softball on the map, but it now faces 'gut-wrenching' end at WCWS

Joe Mussatto is a sports columnist for The Oklahoman. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at jmussatto@oklahoman.com. Support Joe's work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at subscribe.oklahoman.com.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Stanford's NiJaree Canady denied OSU on recruiting trail and at WCWS