TAMPA — After steam rolling through Class 2A competition, Canterbury was supposed to hit a speed bump in Tuesday’s region semifinal against Academy at the Lakes.
Not only was it a game of teams ranked in the top four of the state poll, but a rematch of last year’s state semifinal, which the Crusaders won by 10 runs en route to a title.
For five innings, the Wildcats held Canterbury in check.
It didn’t last.
In the last two innings, the top-ranked Crusaders unleashed their offense in a 10-0 victory over No. 4 AATL.
“We were not getting the runs early, but I knew they would eventually come around,” Crusaders coach Jody Moore said.
Canterbury (19-6) has been controlled on occasion — for a few minutes, a couple of innings.
Then things seem to explode.
Balls start finding their way into the gaps. The offense becomes unhinged — No. 1 hitter, No. 9 hitter, it doesn’t matter.
Suddenly, the frenzy is on and every at-bat seemingly produces a score. It’s like an adding machine gone wild, and a tight game becomes a blowout.
That is how Tuesday’s game unfolded. AATL pitcher Lexi Kilfoyl, a seventh-grader, did not starve Crusader batters. She just served them table scraps, nothing they could really smack. It was an efficient strategy against a lineup that features four hitters who each have at least four home runs this season.
Canterbury got its share of hits, but the power hitters were unable to bring them home. Still, it was hard for the Crusaders to be too flummoxed considering how well freshman Kama Woodall was pitching.
Woodall finished with a one-hit shutout and recorded 13 strikeouts. The only Wildcat batter that gave her trouble was Laura Evans, who has signed with USF. Evans drew two walks and broke up Woodall’s no-hitter with a single in the seventh inning.
In the final two innings, Canterbury got things going. The Crusaders scored three runs in the sixth before breaking the game open with seven in the seventh. Taylor Bump, who went 4-for-5, provided the big hits with a two-run double in the sixth inning and a three-run double in the seventh.
“It was a little frustrating because it took us a while to score,” Bump said. “Their pitcher was throwing around us. We just had to stay positive and wait for our pitch. Once we started getting them we knew we could cream them.”
In all, Canterbury finished with 15 hits. Kaitie Poland and Danielle Romanello each had three hits while Lindsay Graves and Miranda Posey each had two.
In nine games against 2A competition, the Crusaders have outscored opponents a combined 108-1.
Though the Wildcats (15-4) have lost each of their past two meetings against Canterbury, they can take solace in knowing they return the bulk of their lineup.
“It’s night and day how much we’ve improved,” AATL coach Jerry English said. “We played a great game until the sixth inning when we came unraveled. Hopefully, next time we can play a great game for seven innings.”