VERO BEACH— Canterbury cruised with a big lead through six innings, then held on with the opposition's tying run at the plate in the seventh frame, beating Mount Dora Christian 6-3 on Wednesday to advance to the Class 2A state title game at Historic Dodgertown.
The semifinal win by the Crusaders (24-7) puts them in the championship game against Aucilla Christian on Thursday morning at 11:05. The Crusaders will be seeking their fourth title in seven years.
The top of Canterbury's order did the majority of the damage against the Bulldogs (24-6), racing to a 4-0 lead before a torrential downpour arrived and created a two-hour rain delay as the bottom of the fifth was about to begin for the Crusaders.
"I'm really proud of all of them as a team. Their body posture the whole game was great and they were supporting one another," said 12th-year Canterbury coach Jody Moore. "But rain is never a good thing."
In fact, the precipitation ultimately was the only thing that could slow down the top of Canterbury's order.
Taylor Bump went 3-for-3 with a double and three runs scored, while Danielle Romanello smacked a two-run homer and walked twice. In front of the pair, leadoff hitter Madison Fine went 1-for-3 and scored twice as the top three hitters in the order scored all six runs.
"I don't put it on myself to make sure that our team wins. Every single player in our lineup can do it," said Bump, who thwarted two Mount Dora scoring threats by throwing behind a runner to record the first out in the first inning with two runners on and starting a pivotal double play in the fourth.
Romanello's swat to deep right-centerfield in the bottom of the first ended a month-long homerless streak and gave the Crusaders a 3-0 edge. The lefty hitter's long ball on an 0-1 pitch landed in the pond between the softball field and legendary Holman Stadium.
"I was just trying to get my timing down; I've been in a drought. She came inside and that's my favorite pitch," said Romanello of her seventh homer. "I knew it was out. It was a little far."
Crusaders starter Ashley Campbell made it stand up, though she ran into trouble in the seventh with a 6-0 lead. Mount Dora strung together three singles and a hit batter without Campbell recording an out before the righty induced three grounders with two runners on to end the game.
"I have such a strong defense behind me," said Campbell, who had a sacrifice fly to score Canterbury's final run. "They made some great plays behind me. It wasn't (nervy) at all in the last inning. I just had to hit my spots.
"I know that wherever I throw it, my defense has my back."