Notebook: Kylie Chung clutch again as Stanford wins pitcher's duel vs. Washington to reach WCWS semis
While Stanford's pitching has captured the headlines during its run to the Women's College World Series semifinals, Kylie Chung has emerged as one of the Cardinal's most valuable players.
On Sunday, she looped a single into left field to plate the lone run in a 1-0 elimination-game win over Washington. The sixth-inning RBI was the latest of many clutch moments for the sophomore this postseason.
Going back to the inaugural Pac-12 Tournament, Chung blasted a game-tying pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning of an eventual 4-3 win over Oregon. In Regionals, she drove in two key runs in a win over Florida. In Supers, she had two hits and a timely RBI in a win over Duke that punched the Cardinal's first ticket to Oklahoma City since 2004.
"Yeah, I still can't believe it. It doesn't feel real," Chung said of playing hero in the WCWS. "Ever since I rode down (to OKC) in fourth grade, that was the career I wanted — to play softball — so I have been thinking about it for a while."
STANFORD TAKES THE LEAD 👀
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) June 4, 2023
A couple months ago, it seemed unlikely that Chung would be in this position. Through April 17, she only had nine at-bats. Now she hits cleanup for the Cardinal.
"Kylie's a great story," said head coach Jessica Allister. "She didn't sniff the lineup for a really long time. She's a pitcher too. The [designated player] position was kind of held by other people. We had a couple injuries to people who had that position on lockdown and opened up some opportunities. After having great at-bats over and over and over again in practices, got a shot, and has really filled a hole in the middle of our lineup and given us good at-bats since."
This Stanford team is oozing with that kind of stick-to-it attitude. The Cardinal certainly don't have the most prolific offense in Oklahoma City, but the way they pitch and defend, they don't need much to win. They have plated three total runs in their two victories.
The struggle to score can be frustrating at times, sure, but they know not to get discouraged.
"I feel like we all had confidence that if we just kept sticking with it, that something was going to fall. I'm pretty sure that's exactly what happened," Chung said. "I think we kept making sure we had confidence in ourselves. That's the biggest key, I think, for us."
Canady and Meylan shine on the national stage
Pac-12 softball fans are fortunate that they get to watch NiJaree Canady and Ruby Meylan for the next three years. The flamethrowing freshmen matched pitch for pitch on ABC until Chung's go-ahead single in the sixth.
Canady tossed a one-hit shutout, fanning nine Huskies. Meylan gave up the one run on four hits while striking out five.
They brought the best out of each other.
"I just knew that, in order for us to win, I couldn't give up more than a run or none because NiJaree is an amazing pitcher," Meylan said.
Canady has allowed just one earned run on five hits in 13.2 innings at the Women's College World Series, lowering her ERA to a nation-best 0.48. One can make a case that she's the top hurler in the country. Allister would.
"We knew she was special when we were recruiting her," Allister said. "She was my first phone call, and I told her, 'I think you're the best pitcher in the country,' and I think that I have proven to be correct."
Meylan is up there, too. She finishes her freshman season 18-7 with a 2.14 ERA and 204 strikeouts, the fourth-most in the Pac-12.
The Huskies graduate (at least) five key seniors, including 2022 Pac-12 Player of the Year Baylee Klingler and all-conference outfielder Sami Reynolds, but the play of Meylan and other underclassmen has head coach Heather Tarr hopeful about the next chapter of Husky softball.
"It's a symbiotic relationship between the olders and the youngers," she said. "The older ones appreciated that youthful energy, and the younger ones, they looked up to those women like they were their big sisters. So it's a pretty cool thing that they get to leave that behind and that we get to create it with a very young group looking forward next year."
To be a Dawg is to be part of a family
Ruby Meylan reflects on her freshman season and class. 🎙 pic.twitter.com/G3EcVCTbaO
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) June 5, 2023