VERO BEACH — Canterbury had been unrelenting and largely untested before it reached Thursday's Class 2A state final against Monticello Aucilla Christian.
Only one opponent, Sarasota Christian in Wednesday's state semifinal, had even scored on the Crusaders during a postseason in which they had scored 41 runs over four games.
How would Canterbury react if it was challenged in a tight game?
The answer came in a 1-0 victory at Historic Dodgertown in which Canterbury had to bear down to overcome a seventh-inning scare. It is the Crusaders' second straight state title and third in four years. Their three titles tie them with Palm Harbor University for the most in Pinellas County.
"We worked hard all season to get to this point, and we had a way to push through when it mattered most," Canterbury coach Jody Moore said. "That's what good teams do."
The Crusaders (21-6) found out quickly they would not be registering another blowout. They struggled at the plate against Whitney Stevens, who allowed two singles and just three baserunners through the first five innings.
But in the sixth, the Crusaders' bats came alive. Taylor Bump singled and came home on a triple by Danielle Romanello.
"We knew it was just a matter of time before we started to get things going," said Romanello, who continued her tear through the postseason by going 2-for-3.
"We were making contact through the first couple of innings. We just needed to get the good part of the bat on it."
The real strength of this team was its relentlessness. Sure, it was talented. But it also had players willing to work hard and put aside individual achievement for the greater good.
"This is a group of determined girls who constantly pick each other up," Moore said. "Great attitudes all around."
The ability to persevere in a close game also was due in large part to a brutal schedule that included state semifinalists Oviedo Hagerty (8A), Harmony (7A) and Gainesville P.K. Yonge (6A).
"Absolutely the schedule played a factor," Moore said. "It helped the girls learn what it takes to play in those type of games and the challenge to find a way to come through."
Though the Crusaders managed just one run, it was enough for Kama Woodall, who was starting in a state final for a second straight year. Woodall allowed just two hits and struck out 13.
The only anxious moments for Woodall came in the seventh, when her throwing error allowed the leadoff runner to reach and she intentionally walked the next batter.
No matter. Woodall struck out the next two batters then got a popup to second baseman Miranda Posey to seal the title.
"I had the throwing error, but my teammates were there to pick me up," said Woodall, who allowed just one run over five postseason games.
"We had to keep telling ourselves to keep fighting all the way through."
Canterbury seems to find a way to make things interesting in state finals.
All three wins have been by one run and not clinched until the final at-bat.
"Our next goal is to win and not have to worry as much in the seventh inning," Moore said.
That should be attainable considering the Crusaders will return their entire lineup in their quest to become the first Pinellas County team to win three straight state titles.