Revived pitching staff returns to outdoor work

Matthew Hellman | Lariat Photographer
No. 5 infielder Dani Leal swings at a pitch during the Lady Bears’ game against Texas A&M on March 31 at Getterman Stadium. Baylor won, 3-2.

Canion among healed players for 2011 season

By Krista Pirtle
Sports Writer

The Lady Bears softball took the field for their first outdoor practice of the season at Getterman Stadium Tuesday.

Redshirt sophomore Whitney Canion has made her way back to the circle to help lead the team in its push toward a Big 12 Championship. The team received a sixth place ranking in the conference from the preseason coaches polls.

Canion, with an ERA of 1.58 in 11 appearances last year and 529 career strikeouts, is right on schedule with her rehabilitation after finishing last season early with a stress fracture in her forearm.

“She’s doing really well at this point,” head coach Glenn Moore. said. “I think she would say she’s full speed and ready to go. That’s just the kind of competitor she is, but we’re taking it slow. [We’ve] probably overdone it a little bit to make sure that we didn’t put too much on her arm too early. We believe, doctors believe, she’ll be ready to go by the first game, and she’s throwing the ball hard and everything looks good so far.”

With Canion warming up the heat, her teammates are ready to back her up in the field and turn some heads in the process.

“After the Big 12 standings came out … it urged us to get to the top again like we were a couple years ago when Whitney led us all the way to the super regionals,” senior infielder Jordan Vannatta said. “Everybody’s definitely in higher spirits now that she’s getting back and getting going. She was a major leader for us out in the circle.”

Last year, the Lady Bears finished the season 28-25, far below the team’s expectations; however, the way they dealt with the challenges they faced has prepared them for a better 2011 season.

“We’ve healed up a little bit from last year with five surgeries,” Moore said. “It’s kind of out of the norm for a season and with 17 kids to have five surgeries, that was our luck last year. Hopefully we’ll have a little better luck this year.”

Canion, a major name on the injured list last year, was disappointed with her inability to finish out the season but used her time on the bench to mature as a player.

“The best thing was that I matured,” Canion said. “I went out there and watched every single game. I paid attention to every single pitch. I took notes on the hitters, and I think it made me become a better player, a better pitcher, a better leader. I can help coach the team, and I think that it just helped on my mentality on the game and to see the game from the outside in really showed me what this team has and what we’re capable of.”

During the offseason, the Lady Bears wasted no time working to improve on the 2010 season and prepare for what the 2011 season holds.

“That was probably the best offseason I’ve been through during the last three I’ve been through,” Vannatta said. “We’re definitely more prepared this year than we ever have been.”

The Lady Bears understand the only way to go from their preseason rankings is up.

“We don’t need to say we’re just going to win the Big 12. We need to think past the Big 12. We need to think about the big picture and go somewhere,” Vannatta said.