PLANT CITY — The Canterbury softball team can take solace in the fact that it was the first athletic team in the school's history to make a state championship game.
The Crusaders can point to the two runs they scored in the title game against Eagle's View Academy, becoming the first Class A team to score more than a run off of the Warriors this season.
Still, it doesn't make Wednesday's 7-2 state final loss any easier to swallow.
Canterbury (22-7) had its chances to capture a state title at Plant City Stadium in a game that was delayed a day by rain, but a multitude of uncharacteristic errors coupled with an aggressive baserunning approach that backfired ultimately led to the Crusaders' demise.
Canterbury committed five errors and had three runners thrown out on the basepaths.
"We'll continue to grow and build," Canterbury coach Jody Moore said. "I'm just really proud we gave everything we had today. Softball is a game of statistics, and they just didn't fall on our side today."
The program continued its ascension this year, going one game further than any team prior by making the state final.
"We stepped it up one more rung," Moore said. "We were hoping to take two rungs."
After the first inning, it looked like Canterbury was ready to leap onto the winner's podium.
Crusaders starting pitcher Krissy Longstreet struck out the first two Eagle's View batters and retired the Warriors (22-7) in order.
Sarah Fleming reached on an error to start Canterbury's half of the first, stole second and scored on an error that allowed Macey Hall to reach base. Jennifer Crosthwaite lined a single to put two runners on with no outs. But Hall was thrown out at third base on a double steal attempt. After Longstreet walked, Crosthwaite wandered too far off second base and was picked off.
Suddenly, a potential big inning had fizzled.
"I think that they blocked the bases very well, and we weren't used to getting blocked," Moore said.
After escaping the first, Eagle's View, the defending state champs, responded in the second. Kristin Brown led off with a double and scored on Nicole Casaletto's bloop single to tie the game at 1. The Warriors took the lead for good when, with runners on second and third and one out, Ashley Moore flied out to center. Fleming made an on-target throw home from centerfield to keep the runners from advancing, but Hall's pickoff throw to second was not in time and the Warriors' Amber Thrush alertly stole home.
Eagle's View added two more runs in the third and Longstreet gave way to freshman Emily Winesett to open the fourth. The Warriors led off the second, third and fourth innings with hits and scored five runs in those three innings.
"We came in expecting them to hit," Moore said. "I kind of pride myself that we have a great defense. The hits just kind of fell in there today."
Canterbury made it 5-2 in the fifth when Julia Cieutat advanced to third on a bloop single from Hall and came home on a bad throw from the outfield.
The Crusaders had two runners on in each of the final two innings but couldn't produce a timely hit off pitcher Sara Ketchie, who threw a complete-game six-hitter.
Ketchie's single in the seventh added two insurance runs.
"I was really proud that we never gave up," Moore said. "Even that last inning we got hits and put runners on. Everybody did it down the order."
Canterbury loses three seniors — Hall, Kirstyn Smith and Chelsea Weiland — after this season, but the program's recent progression would suggest that the Crusaders are in line to win a state title next season. Every season since Moore took over four years ago, the Crusaders have advanced one game further in the playoffs.
"I'm ready for next year to hopefully make that final step on the ladder," Winesett said.