ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly every team at the state softball tournament will have a workhorse of the staff, an honest-to-goodness, certified No. 1 pitcher who will give her school a chance every time she takes the mound.
Canterbury has something better.
It has two.
Krissy Longstreet and Emily Winesett share pitching duties, often in the same game.
“It’s something that we’ve been used to for years,” Winesett said.
One starts. The other relieves. The roles are reversed the next game. Then again, sometimes they are not.
In fact, coach Jody Moore doesn’t even know who will start Wednesday’s Class A state semifinal against Central Florida Christian Academy.
“I like to keep my pitchers guessing,” Moore said. “Sometimes I get a feeling before the game and look at their body language. Sometimes I look at the other team and how they’re swinging in practice. And sometimes I just flip a coin.”
But there is a method to Moore’s madness. She interchanges her pitchers so opposing hitters do not get a chance to face the same one three times in a game and get her timing down.
“It’s something I observed by taking a look at the stats,” Moore said. “Usually most of the hits come at the end of games. Either a pitcher is tired or a hitter is starting to recognize the pitches and get her timing down. So I thought it was always better to have two pitchers and mix it up.”
Longstreet and Winesett can bewilder batters with their differing styles. Longstreet, a senior, is a calculating pitcher who relies on pinpoint accuracy with her drop ball. Winesett, a junior, has a more frenetic pace and uses more screwballs and rise balls.
“We’re so different, and I’m sure that has to frustrate a batter whenever one of us comes on in relief,” Longstreet said.
Unlike baseball, which belongs to state-of-the-art hitters who are swinging extremely light bats and aiming for the fences, softball still is a pitcher’s game. And when a pitcher comes along who wields one of the rarest and most important weapons in the sport — speed — coaches often become giddy. They know that when they feature a star on the mound their team is as good as any out there.
And so softball pitchers throw and throw and throw. Whereas baseball teams have many starting pitchers plus a few relievers, softball teams aren’t usually afforded that luxury. The ace starter stays in as the middle reliever and the closer. She is, in effect, the staff.
And by taking the mound — and never leaving it — pitchers can produce some eye-popping numbers.
But Canterbury isn’t about stats.
“I have no idea what my record is,” Longstreet said. “We don’t really pay attention to that stuff.”
The Crusaders are all about interchangeable parts. Moore prefers her players know at least two positions. Longstreet is a catcher when she is not on the mound. Winesett is a first baseman.
“We take pride in the fact that we cross-train at all positions,” Moore said. “That way if someone goes down, you haven’t thrown your season away. And these kids are willing to do it. That’s what is so great.”
National Training Center, Clermont
Admission: $8 per session; parking is $5
Class A: Canterbury vs. Orlando Central Florida Christian, 2 p.m. Wednesday
Class 5A: East Lake vs. Bartow, 7 p.m. Friday
On the Web: We’ll have live updates from the games at tampabay.com/hometeam.