Skyhawk Softball | Donley Canary - Head Coach
Donley Canary enters his 17th season at the helm of the Skyhawks. Canary has guided the UT Martin softball team to a pair of Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship, two OVC Softball Championships titles and three postseason appearances since assuming the program reigns in 2002. Amongst numerous team accomplishments, he won his 500th career game on March 1, 2017 and the Skyhawks have appeared in 13 OVC tournaments in the past 15 years.
In the past 16 seasons, Canary has not only become the program’s all-time winningest coach, but also transformed the Skyhawk softball team into a respected and perennial OVC contender. Canary guided the program to its first-ever OVC Tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth in 2009 and its first OVC regular season championship in 2010. As a whole, the Skyhawks have won regular season championships in both 2010 and 2012 along with OVC Tournament titles in 2009 and 2012. The Skyhawks have also appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and 2012 while earning an at-large berth in the National Invitational Softball Championship in 2017.
Now after 16 seasons, Canary sports a 527-388-2 won-loss-tie record and his teams have advanced to the OVC tournament as the No. 1 seed twice, No. 2 seed twice, No. 3 seed three times, No. 4 seed three times and No. 5 seed three times. Canary has won two OVC Coach of the Year awards while coaching two OVC Players of the Year, two OVC Pitchers of the Year and 76 All-OVC selections in his 16 seasons. Of the 76 honors, 25 of those having been named to the All-OVC first team, 14 were named All-OVC second team, three were All-OVC honorable mentions along with 23 named to the OVC All-Tournament Team, including two OVC Tournament MVPs. Canary has also had 21 OVC All-Newcomer team members which was newly created for the 2006 season. Canary is currently the fourth all-time winningest coach in the OVC with 527 career wins and is the fourth winningest among active coaches in the conference.
The transformation began in 2002, during Canary’s first season, when the Skyhawks posted a 25-33 win-loss record. The Skyhawks were lauded as the second most improved Division I softball program in the nation. Canary guided the team to 14 more victories than the year before. Much of the team’s success was because of a stellar recruiting class. The team advanced to the OVC tournament as the No. 3 seed. In the tournament, the Skyhawks suffered a 6-1 loss to No. 6 seed Eastern Illinois in the first round. The Skyhawks defeated No. 5 Southeast Missouri State, 5-1, in the second round and then lost to Eastern Illinois 5-1 in the consolation bracket elimination game.
With the bar raised for the 2003 season, Canary and the Skyhawks once again answered the challenge. The team proved its success in 2002 was not a fluke by winning 21 games and The Skyhawks knocked off Eastern Kentucky in the first round 4-0 before falling to eventual OVC Champion Tennessee Tech and Samford.
In 2004, the team won 40 games and followed that by winning 33 games in 2005. Canary and the Skyhawks were on a roll in 2006 winning 25 games and then claiming 30 wins in 2007.
In 2008, the Canary-led Skyhawk squad missed the OVC Tournament, for the first time in the coach’s tenure. The regular season came down to the final weekend with UT Martin facing Samford and the winner of the three-game series earning the final berth into the postseason. After claiming the opening game 5-3, Samford was able to take the final two games of the series by a score of 2-1 in each. During the season Canary passed the 200 win plateau in his head coaching career. The milestone win came on the road, April 6, against Canary’s alma mater Tennessee Tech by a score of 2-1.
One of the big highlights of Canary’s coaching career came in 2009 when his team entered the OVC Tournament as the No. 4 seed and rallied after dropping the opening game to win the next five games and claim the program’s first OVC Tournament championship and NCAA Tournament berth. The OVC Tournament run also marked the lowest seed to ever win the tournament along with also being the first time a team had come out of the first round losers bracket to eventually win the title.
The Skyhawks and Canary won their first regular season championship in 2010. The coach guided the Skyhawks to a 47-11 won-loss record and his first OVC Coach of the Year honor. By winning the regular season title, the Skyhawks earned the right to host the OVC tournament. The team set program records in runs (322), extra base hits (161), doubles (83), home runs (71), RBIs (291), total bases (774), slugging percentage (.518), wins (47) and shutouts (14).
In 2011, Canary was faced with replacing four four-year starters with a host of newcomers. The Skyhawks finished third in the regular season with a 19-10 slate and overall with a 34-24 record.
The Skyhawks rallied around a trio of seniors – Chelsea Jones, Jenny Bain and Erica Duke – in 2012, winning the regular season OVC title and the OVC Tournament crown. With the tournament title, the Skyhawks advanced to the NCAA Regional where they played eventual national champion Alabama and Georgia Tech.
Along with the proven leadership of the three seniors, the Skyhawks reaped the efforts of three freshmen in the starting lineup. When the dust settled on the season, the accolades came pouring in. Jones was named the OVC Pitcher of the Year. Taylor, a junior from Brownsville was named the league’s Player of the Year and Canary picked up his second OVC Coach of the Year honor.
Jones and Taylor made the NFCA All-Region team, and Taylor was named an Easton All-American, in addition to being named a Capital One CoSIDA Academic All-American.
In 2013, the Skyhawks had to rebound from the loss of three key seniors. Looking to reload, rather than rebuild, the Skyhawks saw the emergence of sophomore Kenzi Tate who shattered numerous program records en route to being named tabbed an All-OVC first team honoree along with NFCA Division I All-Region. Taylor capped her illustrious career with yet another All-OVC honor while setting new program records in both single season and career steals. The Skyhawks belted an OVC-leading 51 home runs while driving in 238 RBIs en route to a 37-20 record on the year and a spot in the OVC Tournament title game.
2014 was a year of transition, capitalized by the loss of three seniors and a key returner injury led the Skyhawks to a 27-27-1 record and No. 6 seed in the OVC Tournament. Despite the overall record, Canary notched his 200th career OVC victory with a 6-5 decision at Austin Peay on May 3. Highlighting the year was the play of OVC Freshman of the Year Carly Gonzales. Along with the league’s top freshman honor, Gonzales was named to the All-OVC second team and an All-Newcomer after pacing the team with a .328 batting average, while hitting one home run, 17 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.
Canary’s 2015 squad became just the second team in the last 13 years to not make the OVC Tournament after finishing with a 24-26 overall record and a 9-15 mark in the league. Despite the results, the Skyhawks saw five players finish with batting averages over the .300 mark, led by All-OVC first team selection 1B/P Kenzi Tate with a Triple Crown campaign, tallying a .345 batting average, nine home runs and 38 RBIs at the plate. Freshman outfielder Alicia Hansen also was named to the All-Newcomer team after cranking six home runs and 28 RBIs in her debut season.
UT Martin returned to the OVC Tournament in 2016 in the league’s first neutral site championship in history. The Skyhawks would finish with a 30-26 overall record while notching a 14-12 mark in OVC play. Gonzales earned her second All-OVC honor after leading the club with a .372 batting average while tallying 10 doubles, two home runs and 22 RBIs along with 22 stolen bases. Freshman Katie Warrick earned All-OVC second team honors along with a spot on the All-Newcomer squad after leading the OVC with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs.
The Skyhawks posted one of the program’s best single seasons during the 2017 campaign as the squad tallied 39 victories and ranked amongst the top-five in seven different single-season statistical program categories including stolen bases (148, first), runs (314, second), RBIs (268, second), batting average (.295, third), hits (456, third), hits per game (7.73, third) and runs per game (5.3, third). Meanwhile in the pitching circle, the Skyhawks tallied the third-most wins in a single season while tossing nine shutouts and a 3.04 team ERA. In addition to the team’s explosive ability, the program earned an at-large berth in the inaugural NISC event with a trip the Region 5 site hosted by Georgia State. Four players would earn All-OVC honors as Gonzales and Jodie Duncan earned first team honors while Aeron Smith and Brooke Kennedy earned second team accolades.
Off the field, Canary’s teams have also excelled in the classroom, earning the OVC Academic Award in 2005 along with in consecutive years of 2014 and 2015. The Skyhawks even held the honor of possessing the highest grade point average over a five-year period according to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
Canary came to UT Martin from Tennessee Tech where he held various positions in athletics since 1993. He served as director of athletic fundraising and assistant softball coach during the 2000-01 seasons, amassing a 44-20 record. Canary also served as an assistant baseball coach for the Golden Eagles from 1993 -2000 season. During that time Tech claimed a 193-235-1 record highlighted by a regular season and tournament OVC championship in 1997.
Canary is a former Academic All-American baseball player from 1973-77 and graduate of Tennessee Tech University. He was inducted into the Tennessee Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 1997 in recognition of his outstanding playing career.
An All-OVC outfielder, Canary led the Golden Eagles with a .429 batting average and was named All-South and received the Academic All-American award following the 1976 season. Canary was the top batter in the Golden Eagle line up during the 1974 and 1976 seasons. In 1974, he led Tech with a .327 average at the plate and 1976 average of .429 still sits as third all-time in Golden Eagle baseball history. Canary also sits at fourth in walks with 39 and sixth in at-bats per strikeout with 27.2. On the career walks list, Canary still holds the top spot with 134 free passes during his tenure.
He earned his master’s degree from the University of Tennessee in 1980. Canary and his wife, Jenny (also a Tennessee Tech graduate), have one son, David who is currently an assistant coach at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas and assistant scout for the 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals.
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