PLANT CITY — The Canterbury players call it "climbing the ladder" but the way the Crusaders are performing, that ladder had better come with an extension.
Since Jody Moore took over four ago years, the Crusaders have increased their fortunes each year.
That first season under Moore, the Crusaders won their first district title. The next year, they made it to the region semifinals.
A year ago, Canterbury took another leap by winning the region championship and advancing to the final four.
This season, appearing in the school's second straight state semifinal, the Crusaders bullied an overmatched Lake Worth Christian squad 9-0 to take that next step into today's Class A state final against Eagle's View Academy.
The Crusaders (22-6), though, aren't going to be satisfied until they reach the top platform. "This year we decided that we're going to take two rungs because we can," Moore said.
In a pressure-filled situation Monday, starting pitcher Krissy Longstreet had a career performance. The sophomore ace allowed just two hits over six innings and struck out nine. And she went 3-for-4 and drove home Canterbury's second run.
Longstreet (12-3) didn't allow a runner past second base.
"I couldn't wait to be here," she said. "I was waiting all through school to get to the game."
Longstreet had plenty of help. Seven of the Crusaders' nine starters registered a hit; Canterbury had 11 total. Sarah Fleming bunted on base twice and scored the fourth run in the fifth inning. Jennifer Crosthwaite went 3-for-4 with two RBIs.
In the sixth inning, Chelsea Weiland, Savannah Mitchell and Emily Winesett stroked back-to-back singles that scored four runs to blow the game open.
And despite committing two errors, the Crusaders made the little plays in the field that added up to a big victory.
Canterbury held a 2-0 advantage after one, and three Lake Worth Christian (21-7) errors in the third inning led to another Canterbury run.
In the fifth, Hall singled home Fleming and Crosthwaite brought Macey Hall home with a bloop single to rightfield for a 5-0 lead.
Winesett started the seventh and, despite loading the bases with one out, preserved the shutout.
"I think last year we were just happy to be here because it was another step on our ladder, but this year we came to win," Longstreet said.