ST. PETERSBURG — During a seven-game span in the middle of the season, Canterbury couldn’t figure out how to win. Four of the seven losses were by one run. Another was a 14-3 loss to a small school from Pittsburgh. And the worst was a 6-4 loss to Class 2A rival Cambridge.
The Crusaders had to figure things out quickly or a promising season was going to come to a quick end.
“We were pretty down on ourselves,” senior catcher/pitcher Harrison Hall said. “We really didn’t know where we were going.”
Canterbury regrouped in time to make it through the district semifinal. Despite a loss to Sarasota Christian in the district final, the Crusaders were in the region tournament.
A win at Naples First Baptist Academy set up a rematch at Sarasota Christian, which Canterbury won 6-1 to advance to Friday’s region final — the second in school history.
The losing streak feels like a long time ago.
“We never hit a panic button,” coach Dave Smith said. “It’s not like we were getting blown out. We were losing one-run games. Sometimes it’s better to lose 2-1 than win 15-0, as strange as that sounds. You can learn from those 2-1 losses.”
What Smith and his team learned was that the bats needed to wake up and the pitching needed to get better. Both did.
Hall is leading the team with a .439 average and a team-high 22 RBIs. Richie McClure isn’t far behind with a .408 average and 12 doubles. Jake Holsinger is hitting .392 and Steven Winesett is hitting .375.
Canterbury’s team average is .321. After the seven-game losing streak, the Crusaders have gone 17-11.
On the mound, Holsinger and Hall have been the 1-2 punch. Hall is 5-2 with a 3.23 ERA in 47 2/3 innings pitched. Holsinger is 2-1 with a 2.77 ERA in 53 innings.
Holsinger pitched Canterbury into the region final, taking a shutout into the seventh inning against Sarasota Christian. He and Hall have been in the starting rotation since their sophomore seasons. He said while they root each other on, there is also some friendly competition.
“I’ll tell him that I only gave up one run last night, what are you going to do?” Holsinger said. “But we help each other out. We both want to do well.”
And they wouldn’t mind being the first team in school history to go to a state tournament, let alone win one. Smith knows exactly how that can happen.
“The better players need to be at their best in the biggest games,” Smith said. “That hasn’t happened in some games. But lately, they’ve been playing well.”
Hall is one of those players, and he’ll take the mound Friday afternoon. It may be his last start for Canterbury, which is motivation enough.
“I can’t stop thinking about it,” Hall said. “I’m ready to get there.”
7 p.m. Friday; admission is $7.
3A: West Palm Beach King’s Academy at St. Petersburg Catholic
2A: Canterbury at Stuart Community Christian