ST. PETERSBURG — To win its second straight state title, Canterbury has to get through a Class 2A region bracket that includes four other teams ranked in the top 10 of the state poll.
The first obstacle for the top-ranked Crusaders came against No. 6 Cambridge Christian in Thursday's region quarterfinals. Canterbury did not have much trouble in a 5-0 victory. Up next for the Crusaders (19-6) is a region semifinal at No. 4 Academy of the Lakes that is a rematch of last year's state semifinals.
Canterbury pitcher Kama Woodall threw a complete-game shutout and was one pitch from her second straight perfect game. In the fifth inning, she threw a ball that Vivica Smith smacked to the centerfield wall for a double.
"It's tough anytime you give up a hit, but it's even more so in that situation," said Woodall, who finished with 10 strikeouts. "It was just a pitch that got away from me. Other than that, it was a great game."
The Crusaders' Danielle Romanello, the cleanup hitter, went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, including a homer in the fourth inning that landed on top of the batting cage. Lindsay Graves, the leadoff batter, was 3-for-3 with two runs scored.
But the biggest jolt on offense came from No. 6 hitter Maddie Posey, who went 2-for-3 with a three-run double in the third inning that gave Canterbury a 4-0 lead. Since the district tournament last week, Posey is a combined 6-for-9 with a double and two home runs.
"The difference for me is I'm thinking less at the plate and looking for my pitch and driving it," Posey said.
In seven games against 2A competition this season, Canterbury has outscored opponents a combined 98-1. Thursday's game was a tougher test considering the Crusaders beat the Lancers 8-1 in the regular season.
"We knew we were going to have to work for this one," Canterbury coach Jody Moore said. "Every game will be tough in this region. It will only help us get better if we're able to get back to the state final four."
8A: PHU falters
TAMPA — Five days after tossing a 13-inning complete game in a district final win over Bloomingdale, Alonso starter Kayla Maxwell came through again against Palm Harbor University.
Clinging to a two-run lead after allowing a run on a fielder's choice in the seventh inning, the senior faced a tough situation with runners at first and third and two outs.
But Maxwell, a University of Houston signee, stayed calm and escaped the jam by inducing a ground ball to Katie Flanagan to give the Ravens a 4-2 victory and another meeting with Bloomingdale in Tuesday's semifinal.
Alonso's (22-4) offense wasted little time against PHU (16-8) pitcher Rachel Taylor, jumping to a 3-0 lead in the second. After Maxwell reached on an error and Victoria Perri singled to left, Jessica Warren connected with a fly ball that sailed over the right fielder's head and into the corner for an inside-the-park home run.
Logyn Lilley got the 'Canes on the board in the fifth with an RBI single, but Maxwell added an insurance run for Alonso in the sixth on a double to left to make it 4-1.
6A: Jefferson gets a little revenge
TAMPA — Forty days after getting walloped by Osceola, Jefferson got a big boost from its battery. Senior pitcher Nikki Lopez was a strike-throwing machine, and senior catcher Natali Morgado drove in three runs as Jefferson defeated Osceola 5-1.
Morgado's two-run, two-out single in the first gave Lopez all the runs she needed. Lopez struck out 10 and walked one while going the distance. She scattered eight hits and wiggled out of no-out jams in the fourth with runners on second and third, and in the sixth with the bases loaded (when Osceola scored its run).
Jefferson (17-6) lost 11-0 to Osceola (12-15) on March 15 in the Palm Harbor Invitational.
Becca Bunday and MacKenna Willis had two hits each for Osceola.
2A: AATL gets coveted matchup
Academy at the Lakes jumped out to a big lead before cruising to its fourth straight win, 13-1 over visiting Lakeside Christian.
The Wildcats have been looking forward to facing Canterbury since losing to the Crusaders 13-3 in last year's state semifinals.
"Canterbury is a well-coached team and we're going to have to play awfully well to get past them," AATL coach Jerry English said.
Against Lakeside, the Wildcats took command right away, scoring six in the first inning, two in the second and three in the third.
Correspondents Don Jensen and Jeff Odom contributed to this report.