ST. PETERSBURG — After spending the first three weeks of the season pulverizing the opposition, Canterbury and River Ridge got exactly what they wanted in their anticipated matchup between undefeated, state-ranked teams Thursday night: a much-needed test.
The Royal Knights, ranked third in Class 5A, took advantage of their limited opportunities, scoring two runs off an error to beat the defending 2A state champion Crusaders 2-1.
"We wanted to beef up the schedule a little bit, and this was what we wanted to schedule early in the season," River Ridge coach Ernie Beck said. "Canterbury is an excellent team. I knew it would be a tight game like this."
It was exactly what the Royal Knights (8-0) craved after winning their previous seven games by a combined 79-4. Things had been just as easy for the 2A No. 1 Crusaders (4-1). They had allowed just one run this season and won their first two district games by a combined 33-0, each so lopsided they lasted just three innings because of the mercy rule.
Thursday, neither team could outslug the other in a pitching duel between River Ridge's Makenzie Goluba and Canterbury's Kama Woodall. Each mowed down batters with efficiency on a cold night with a steady drizzle.
The outcome would be determined by which team could capitalize on miscues. The Royal Knights took advantage in the fourth as Kenzi Maguire walked and Morgan Tolle was hit by a pitch. Both scored when Anessa Holes' popup with two outs was misplayed in shallow centerfield.
"It was one mistake," Crusaders coach Jody Moore said. "We'll learn from it."
Canterbury cut it to 2-1 on Woodall's homer in the bottom half.
In the sixth, Woodall issued full-count walks to Maguire and Tolle and Galuba singled to load the bases with one out. Woodall got out of the jam by striking out the next batter and inducing the next to pop up to catcher Danielle Romanello.
But any momentum was squashed due to Canterbury's inability to get a runner into scoring position. Threats in the last two innings ended with forceouts at second.
"We're still a young team with a ton of underclassmen," Moore said. "But I'm happy with how we responded against a great team. We could have folded early, but we battled back and showed great character."
Galuba allowed two hits and struck out six. Woodall also allowed two hits while striking out 11.