Bob Drebin /

Blanked in Opener

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The 2024 College World Series is in full swing. For the second season in a row, the Stanford Cardinal made the trip to Oklahoma City to play on the biggest stage in college softball. In the third game of the opening day, Stanford drew top-seeded Texas in a highly anticipated bout between two of the best teams in the country. Both offenses were quiet in a game that did not produce many runs, but Texas put up a pair of crooked innings en route to a 4-0 win. Stanford will now move to the elimination bracket.
Texas got on the board in the bottom of the third, finally able to break through against Stanford's NiJaree Canady (23-6). A bunt single by Kayden Henry got the inning started, and she moved to third after a wild pitch and a sacrifice bunt. Stanford nearly got out of the inning unscathed after Ashton Maloney hit a scorcher to Jade Berry at third, but it glanced off her glove and ricocheted into foul territory. It could have resulted in a double play, but allowed Maloney to reach, while keeping Henry at third.  RBI singles from Bella Dayton and Mia Scott produced runs on the next two at bats, putting the Longhorns in front.
Those runs snapped a 15-inning scoreless streak for Canady, who had not allowed a run since the game one loss in the Super Regional against LSU.
The third inning was a pivot from a rock-solid first two innings for Canady, the USA Softball Player of the Year. She needed just 10 pitches in the first inning despite falling behind Dayton 3-0 to open the game, eventually retiring the first six hitters of the game in order.
Insurance runs were added by Texas in the sixth inning, with the damage coming with two outs in the frame. After a leadoff walk, Canady bounced back to retire the next two hitters. She then struggled to find the strike zone, walking the bases loaded before allowing a two-run single from Henry to double the Longhorns lead.
After a late offensive outburst against LSU last weekend to win game three, Stanford's offense produced just one hit against Texas. Teagan Kavan (19-2) kept the Cardinal bats at bay while striking out eight and walking four. She needed 125 pitches to go the distance. The Cardinal were 0-9 with runners on base and 0-5 with runners in scoring position. Stanford's eight strikeouts were the most in a single game since April 26 against Washington.
The Cardinal had chances to get on the board ahead of the Longhorns. In the first, Ava Gall singled up the middle with two outs and moved to second after a passed ball but was left stranded. The next inning, Jade Berry walked with one out and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, but the Card could not capitalize.
One more great chance to score came in the top of the fifth, when River Mahler became the first Stanford leadoff hitter to reach, doing so on a four-pitch walk. Texas gifted the Cardinal an extra runner after a muffed throw to second led to Mahler advancing on a fielder's choice. With two on and one out, a strikeout and groundout ended the threat and kept a zero on the scoreboard.
With the loss, Stanford will now have to battle from the elimination bracket to advance. The first elimination game for the Cardinal takes place on Friday at 8:30 pm CT/6:30 pm PT against either Oklahoma State or Florida, who play later Thursday night. Friday's game will be televised on ESPN2.