ST. PETERSBURG — The staples that have made Canterbury one of the most successful small-school softball teams in the state the past six years were on display in Thursday’s Class A, District 9 championship.
Krissy Longstreet and Emily Winesett combined to throw a four-hit shutout. Each pitcher was aided by a stellar defense, including a double play to end a bases-loaded, one-out threat in the second inning and a diving catch by Longstreet when she was at catcher in the fifth inning.
But pitching and defense are not enough to win an elusive state title. The Crusaders know they have to score runs, and they did often in a 6-0 victory over Academy at the Lakes to win their sixth straight district title.
“We worked hard for it, especially with our hitting,” Canterbury coach Jody Moore said.
Playing a beefed-up schedule filled with public school teams in higher classifications helped the Crusaders (17-10) prepare for the competition they will see in the playoffs, particularly if they make their fourth straight trip to state.
But it has come at the expense of the offense. It culminated in a game two weeks ago in which Canterbury beat St. Petersburg 1-0 in 15 innings but left 16 runners on base.
“We probably have more losses than we’ve had in a long time,” Moore said. “And our confidence has been sagging a little at the plate facing so many tough teams. But we’ve worked a lot on our hitting and scoring the past few weeks.”
The bats came alive this week as the Crusaders won 16-0 in the district semifinals. On Thursday, Canterbury got off to a quick start, scoring four runs in the first inning thanks to a double by Longstreet and a triple by Jennifer Crosthwaite.
In all, Canterbury had 10 hits, including three extra-base hits. Two of those came from Longstreet, who also hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning.
“It was a pitch I liked that was low and outside and I was able to get it on the sweet spot on the bat,” Longstreet said. “We’ve always been known for our pitching and defense. Now, our offense is starting to come around, too.”