Coach Patty Gasso clears the air on Rising Speculations Regarding NiJaree Canady’s move to OU Sooners.

OU softball needs pitching, and NiJaree Canady is looking for a new team. The Stanford star and the Sooners seem like a perfect fit but for now, there’s nothing concrete yet“- Gasso.

Well, how about that? As OU softball looks to bolster its pitching depth following its historic fourth consecutive national championship, the top pitcher in the country is reportedly becoming available.

NiJaree Canady, the Stanford star who was named USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year in 2024, has officially entered the NCAA transfer portal, according to D1 Softball. Her intention to transfer was first reported by KSNT 27, a television station in her hometown of Topeka, Kansas.

Stanford pitcher NiJaree Canady will reportedly transfer, could OU softball get her?

Canady recorded a 24-7 record with an impressive 0.73 ERA over 230⅔ innings last season, striking out 337 batters while walking just 44. She led Stanford to its second consecutive Women’s College World Series appearance, helping the Cardinal finish as national quarterfinalists again in 2024.

In her career, Canady has a 41-10 record with a 0.66 ERA in 366⅓ innings, tallying 555 strikeouts against 65 walks. After throwing 135 innings in 2023 and being named Freshman of the Year by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, she was relied upon even more heavily by Stanford in 2024.

Canady pitched the fourth-most innings in the country, including all 26 innings Stanford played at the 2024 WCWS in Oklahoma City. This makes OU and Canady a logical transfer portal match. Coach Patty Gasso needs a pitcher or two who can handle significant innings, but Canady wouldn’t have to carry the full load in Norman.

Gasso has been more protective of pitchers after overworking Paige Parker during the 2016 and 2017 championship runs. Parker’s innings dropped significantly by her senior year due to earlier high usage.

Oklahoma State transfer Kelly Maxwell, who led OU in innings in 2024, logged 155⅓ frames—75⅓ innings less than Canady pitched for Stanford this year.

Run support is also crucial for a pitcher’s success. OU had the second-best offense in the country in 2024, averaging 7.85 runs per game. In contrast, Stanford’s lineup averaged just 4.61 runs per game, ranking 109th nationally. Without Canady’s dominant pitching, Stanford likely wouldn’t have reached the final four in 2024.

With ten seniors leaving, OU’s offense might regress in 2024. Key players like Tiare Jennings, Jayda Coleman, Kinzie Hansen, Alyssa Brito, and Rylie Boone won’t be returning. However, a strong core remains, led by freshman All-Americans Ella Parker and Kasidi Pickering, and supported by Hannah Coor, Nelly McEnroe-Marinas, and Maya Bland.

OU’s 2024 recruiting class includes highly-touted prospects like infielders Sydney Barker, Gabbie Garcia, Kadey McKay, and Tia Milloy, catchers Corri Hicks and Riley Zache, and outfielder Chaney Helton. Despite being young, this lineup should still outperform Stanford’s.

OU’s pitching rotation will see changes, with Maxwell, Nicole May, and Karlie Keeney exhausting their eligibility, and SJ Geurin entering the transfer portal. Returning pitchers include Kierston Deal and Paytn Monticelli, who both showed promise last season. Incoming freshman Audrey Lowry, the 2023-24 Gatorade Player of the Year in Indiana, could also make an immediate impact.

Adding a pitcher with extensive postseason experience would be ideal for OU. Deal and Monticelli have some NCAA Tournament experience, but Canady’s 98 innings in the postseason over the past two years would be invaluable.

Would the relative youth of OU’s team deter Canady? She could still choose to play for a more experienced SEC team like Florida or Texas. Or perhaps she could return home to Kansas, similar to Jordy Bahl’s move to Nebraska. However, this seems unlikely given the competitive landscape.

Despite OU’s occasional struggles in 2024, they still seemed destined to reach the top. This sense of inevitability could extend to the transfer portal as well. Canady might find it hard to say no to OU, given the program’s “Championship Mindset,” the new Love’s Field stadium, and the opportunity to work with pitching coach Jennifer Rocha.

OU also has a potential secret weapon in student manager KJ Miller, a longtime friend of Canady from Topeka. This connection might sway Canady towards OU.

Joining OU would make Canady a focal point in the softball-crazed Sooner State, potentially boosting her national profile.

Ultimately, two things are clear: OU needs pitching, and NiJaree Canady needs a new home. The Sooners and the Stanford star seem like a good match. How good? We’ll soon know.