Oklahoma has reached the Women’s College World Series for the seventh-consecutive season and hopes to leave with their third-straight national championship next week.
The Sooners have a lot of work to do before then, though, as the remaining field is loaded with dangerous teams.
Their first test comes in the form of Stanford, who entered the tournament as the No. 9 seed. The Cardinal and Sooners met in their second game of the season, a 10-1 run rule in the Sooners’ favor. However, this isn’t nearly the same Stanford team that Oklahoma roughed up back in February.
NFCA Freshman of the Year NiJaree Canady has emerged for the Cardinal, and their 45-13 record with the nation’s toughest schedule speaks for itself.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Sooners and the Cardinal ahead of their WCWS Matchup.
LOCATION: HALL OF FAME STADIUM; OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
DATE/TIME: THURSDAY, JUNE 1; 2:30 P.M. CT
TALE OF THE TAPE
NO. 1 OKLAHOMA (56-1)
The Sooners have been favored to make it here since the season began in February, and here they are. Oklahoma has won 48 consecutive games and has dominated the stat sheet since Big 12 play started back in March. With Jordy Bahl leading the charge in the circle and a host of All-Americans in the lineup, OU is as dangerous a team as there is in Oklahoma City. It’s not a coincidence that Patty Gasso’s squad has won each of the last two national championships and looks to be the favorite to make it three in a row.
NO. 9 STANFORD (45-13)
The Cardinal are No. 3 in D1Softball’s RPI, and their No. 1 overall strength of record is a big reason why. Stanford has wins over Georgia (2), Wichita State, Oregon (3), Arizona (3), Cal (2), Washington, Florida (2), and Duke (2). Their 13 losses are to Oklahoma, Duke, Oregon, UCLA (4), Utah (3), Cal, and Washington (2). In short, this team doesn’t lose to bad teams, and that’s why they’re here. Stanford had little trouble dismantling Florida and Duke on its way to Oklahoma City and now has a chance to right one of its wrongs against the Sooners on Thursday.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kinzie Hansen, C, Oklahoma
Since tournament play began, Kinzie Hansen has batted .563 with nine hits in 16 ABs. Her nine RBIs leads the team and her two home runs ranks third in that stretch. However, nobody’s had a bigger moment than Hansen’s three-run homer to bring Oklahoma even with Clemson in the Super Regional, with the Sooners eventually prevailing. With Hansen’s bat as hot as it is, OU’s offense could take off to another level in OKC.
NiJaree Canady, RHP, Stanford
The 2023 NFCA Freshman of the Year has burst onto the scene for Stanford this season in a massive way. Canady’s ERA paces the country at 0.48, with 193 strikeouts over 116.1 IP. Her 16-1 record for the Cardinal has made her the arm to watch, despite Alana Vawter being the seasoned vet of the group. In tournament play, she’s allowed just seven hits and one earned run with 25 strikeouts over 17.1 IP.
ONE THING TO WATCH
Many people consider Stanford’s pitching staff to be the best in the country, with the combination of NiJaree Canady and Alana Vawter combining for a 36-9 mark this season. Stanford has made its bread by staying low in the zone with drop balls, which has been something of a weakness for Oklahoma at times.
The battle to watch in this game will be the heart of Oklahoma’s lineup against the best that Stanford has to offer from the circle. There’s no doubt that Stanford’s arms are good enough to keep OU off balance for a time, but the question is for how long?
On the flipside, can Stanford crack the code that is Jordy Bahl, Nicole May, and Alex Storako? Not many teams have, but Clemson seemed to have found something last weekend. Can Stanford build on the Tigers’ success, or will OU have things buttoned up once again?