Sun and fun: Canaan Burnett signs with Stetson

On hand to watch Gordon Lee’s Canaan Burnett (seated, center) sign her softball letter of intent with Stetson University were Lofton McGehee, Donna Burnett, David Burnett and Christian Burnett. On the back row is Gordon Lee assistant softball coach Kevin McElhaney, Gordon Lee head softball coach Dana Mull and Gordon Lee principal Michael Langston. (Photo by Scott Herpst)

The long legacy of Gordon Lee High School softball pitchers added another name to its list of college signees on Monday when senior Canaan Burnett finally signed her letter of intent with Stetson University, nearly two years after verbally committing to the Deland, Florida school.

"It feels really awesome," said Burnett, surrounded by family and friends at a signing party. "I've been waiting for this day since my sophomore year and everything is finally wrapping up. I'm creating close bonds with all the girls that are in my class and with my coaches, so I'm really excited."

Burnett said the Hatters' coaching staff is what ultimately led her to Stetson, an NCAA Division I program.

"I love each and every one of them and from the first day I visited the campus they've made me feel so welcome," she explained. "They've made me feel like I've already been a part of the team. I owe it to them for my decision.

Of course, also being just minutes from the beach might have had a little bit to do with it too.

"I couldn't have picked a better location," she laughed. "I've always dreamed of playing (college softball) in Florida ever since I was little because I wanted to live by the beach. It worked out and that's pretty awesome."

Burnett went a combined 13-2 with an ERA hovering around 1.50 in her first two seasons as a Lady Trojan, helping the team to two straight Class AA state championship games and one state crown. But when graduation losses moved Burnett into the No. 1 spot in the circle as a junior, she thrived.

A complete-game, 2-1 victory over Calhoun jump-started her third season in Chickamauga and she rode that performance to a 27-2 season, striking out 186 and walking just 35 in 171 innings of work. Not only was she named as an All-State first team player, she became the seventh Lady Trojan pitcher under head coach Dana Mull to win the state's Pitcher of the Year award for her classification.

This past fall, Burnett went 19-2 with an 1.18 ERA in 112.2 innings, striking out 109 and walking 36 to help the Lady Trojans win back-to-back Class A Public School state championships and give her three state titles overall. This year's state awards have not yet been announced.

Burnett also got it done with the bat at Gordon Lee, hitting .343 for her career with seven homers and 90 RBIs. She hit a career-best .396 as a senior with a career-high four homers.

"We've definitely been fortunate to have dominant pitchers come through this program and Canaan is another one of those," Mull said. "She proved herself these last couple of years with her record. Having just four losses in her upperclassmen years, that's tough to do. You know she's going to compete when she gets up there. You don't ever have to question that. She's going to compete and she's going to give you a chance to win every time she steps in the circle.

"I think she'll keep developing as a pitcher as she keeps working with her pitching coaches. She's got the tools and she's been working with Beth (Keylon-Rawlston). Beth has helped her get a lot of movement on her ball and I think that, along with just her desire to be there and compete, will keep her where she needs to be."

"I think I'll bring in a lot of confidence and I'll bring in my silly side," Burnett said with a smile. "We have several good pitchers that are already there and I think I'll be able to add to that. Hopefully we can win some more rings."

She says she plans to major in Sports Business with a minor in Communications.

Stetson plays in the Atlantic Sun Conference in softball, along with the likes of Jacksonville (Fla.), Florida Gulf Coast, Kennesaw State, North Florida, USC-Upstate and Lipscomb.