Big 12 Campus Correspondent
To this day Whitney Canion still enjoys a good puzzle. The walls of her room at home are dotted with the works of art that she put together with her grandmother as a child.
"I am a puzzle nerd," Canion said. "Our dining room table at home is not used for meals; it is used for puzzles."
Right now, the redshirt-sophomore pitcher provides a pivotal piece for solving the Baylor softball puzzle. However, only nine months ago there were serious questions whether the Aledo, Texas-native would ever pitch again.
As a freshman at Baylor, Canion set single-season records for innings pitched (291.1), games started (46), complete games (37) and strikeouts (415) en route to being named the Big 12 Pitcher and Freshman of the Year.
However, Canion spent the summer after that successful season rehabbing a break in the ulna bone of her pitching arm and conditioning to prevent further injury. But the work would not be rewarded as the injury flared up again only 11 games into Canion's sophomore campaign, forcing her to take a medical redshirt and start the rehab process over.
"Obviously, it was a big blow," head coach Glenn Moore said. "Pitching is so important in this game. I think as a staff we did one of our better coaching jobs to stay above .500 with the fact that a kid we put all our marbles on was no longer there."
After a few more months of rehab, Canion would try to pitch in summer league action, but the pain persisted and at that point, she opted for surgery.
"It was very frustrating, because I felt like I put so much time into it," Canion said. "I kept saying, 'Why is this happening to me?' It was very emotional at times. I tried to not let the team see how down I was, but at the same time, it was the most depressing thing I have ever gone through."
The pain was so great during her freshman year that Canion could not even brush her hair. There was swelling in her hand and tingling in her pinky, but Dr. Keith Meister of the Texas Metroplex Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics promised that surgery would fix the ailments.
Surgery for Canion was on July 21, 2010, and as she was shaking off the cobwebs of anesthesia, Dr. Meister delivered the good news to her parents, "She is fixed. She is ready to go," he said.
However, it would be 103 days before Canion would again pick up a ball to pitch. It was torment for the softball star. Pitching is who Canion is.
"Pitching is my life," Canion said. "I started rehabbing the day after surgery. It was a grind getting up every day with rehab every single morning before class. I felt like I was rehabbing to not even get to throw."
After four months of work with weights and strength bands, the day for her first tosses, November 1, finally arrived.
"It was just overhand and it was just so weird," Canion said. "I called my parents right afterward and said, 'I haven't lost it.' For some reason, I expected my throws to be everywhere, because I hadn't touched a ball in four months."
Canion continues to prove that she hasn't lost it as she has posted 19 wins with 204 strikeouts in 155.0 innings pitched for Baylor this season. She has helped the Lady Bears to a 34-8 overall record and a 7-3 mark in conference play.
"We are going to the World Series," Canion said. "We want to win the World Series. This team is refusing to lose."
Moore recognizes that his team's puzzle is a lot easier to solve with Canion in the circle.
"Everybody is more confident around her," he said. "Not only do the coaches coach more confidently, the players play more confidently. It just makes us a better ball club. We are going to go as far as Whitney Canion can carry us."