By Shehan Jeyarajah
Sometimes it feels like senior pitcher Whitney Canion has been at Baylor forever. Thanks to multiple injury-plagued seasons, this is Canion’s sixth year on campus. Throughout all the adversity, Canion has forged her path as the unquestioned greatest pitcher in Baylor softball history.
“A lot of pitchers look at the top athlete in that particular position and she’s raised the bar,” Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said. “You look at the record books, you see her name all over it, and I think there are more records that she’ll break before she leaves here.”
Canion arrived on campus after being named Texas Gatorade Player of the Year as the best softball player in the state of Texas after posting a 31-0 record with a 0.07 ERA, seven no-hitters and three perfect games her senior year.
Soon after arriving on campus, she began to forge her way as one of the best players in the nation. She won her first ever start after pitching a complete-game shutout against No. 1 Florida. Over the course of her freshman year, she set records for innings pitched, starts, complete games and strikeouts on the way to being named Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and Freshman of the Year.
“When she came here freshman year, she was throwing by people at 70-71 miles per hour which is one of the best in the country,” Moore said. “She had a great down and out to a lefty, down and out to a righty. She just works all the players.”
Only 11 games into a heralded sophomore campaign, Canion injured her forearm and was forced to miss the 2010 season.
She came strong out of the gates in 2011 and was named to the USA National Team for the summer of 2011.
Despite being only a redshirt sophomore, Canion broke the all-time Baylor record for strikeouts and started every game for a Baylor team that advanced to the College Softball World Series. For her efforts, she was named a Second-Team All American.
Canion started 2012 off with a bang, throwing a five-inning no-hitter and striking out all 15 batters that she faced. After the strong start, Canion was lost for the season in 2012 after tearing her ACL in only her eighth game that season.
“The knee was 10 times harder than the arm,” Canion said. “I thought several times throughout that my career was over; the knee was harder than I expected. I had to learn patience with my knee.”
Despite an off season for the Bears in 2013, Canion has been dominant this season. Through 36 games for the No. 12 Baylor Bears, Canion has a record of 16-5 with a 1.41 ERA, including 11 complete games and seven shutouts. She leads the Big 12 in strikeouts per seven innings with 9.21 and holds opponents to a Big 12-low .154 batting average when she is in the circle. More than that, Canion is well on her way to rewriting the record books.
“The most positive effect she’s had is not on the pitchers but all the athletes that she’s played with who saw her have the position and effort to come back from adversity and continue to complete,” Moore said. “She’s done that twice now. With anyone that’s dealt with adversity, they can look at her back out on the field.”
Similar to Canion, senior quarterback Bryce Petty was another forced to wait for years before really getting to play to the best of his ability on the field.
“I have a few classes with Bryce, and we were joking the other day about what’s in the water [in terms of being patient],” Canion said. “I think you come to Baylor, you learn patience, you learn discipline and become a better athlete, whether you’re performing your freshman or senior year.”
Following her strong start to the season, Canion was named a Top 25 Finalist for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year on April 9. The Bears are on striving towards playing in another World Series, and Canion is taking advantage of every second.
“I’ve definitely got a new meaning for patience. I’ve gone through a lot of adversity, but it’s all starting to pay off now. I’m really enjoying all I have left at Baylor,” Canion said.
No. 12 Baylor will take the field against the defending national champion No. 13 Oklahoma in a three-game series on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Getterman Stadium. All three games will be televised.