VERO BEACH — The umpire waved his arms in the air, signaling the game was over.
Canterbury players headed for the dugout, unable to control their emotions. Some burst into tears. Others stood in stunned disbelief.
They thought they had thrown a state title away with two errors that appeared to allow the tying and winning runs in the eighth inning of Saturday’s Class 2A softball championship game against Orlando Pine Castle Christian.
But after an appeal, the umpires ruled a dead ball should have been called after an overthrow and they moved the runner who would have been the winning run back to third base, leaving the game tied at 2.
Given another gasp, the Crusaders escaped the jam, manufactured a run in the ninth and held on for a 3-2 victory. It was the Crusaders’ second state title in three years, the first one also decided by one run in extra innings.
“When the umpire first threw his hands up, I started crying,” Canterbury senior first baseman Savvy Mitchell said. “I thought the game, a state title and my high school career were over. I felt a whole lot better when it was reversed. I felt like we were getting a second chance for a reason, and there was no way we could go out and throw it away.”
For five innings, the Crusaders dominated thanks to their eighth-graders in the starting lineup. Pitcher Kama Woodall stayed ahead in the count and induced groundouts or popups. Second baseman Miranda Posey went 2-for-4, including a second-inning single that drove in the first run.
Pine Castle tied the game in the sixth and ultimately sent it into extra innings.
In the eighth, the Crusaders’ Kelsey Hill, who scored the winning run for Canterbury’s first state title, led off with a single, stole second and moved to third on a groundout. She scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly by Danielle Romanello.
In the bottom of the eighth, Canterbury was one out away from the crown when things appeared to slip away.
With runners on first and second, a roller glanced off pitcher Woodall’s glove to third baseman Maddie Posey, who overthrew first base, allowing the tying run to score.
Mitchell, the first baseman, ran the ball down and threw home ahead of the runner trying to score from first, but the ball eluded catcher Romanello and the runner came in with what appeared to be the title-winning run.
But even as officials were moving trophies onto the field, Canterbury coach Jody Moore appealed to the umpires that the initial overthrow to first ended up crossing the white chalk lines that designate the photographer’s box, where a ball would be ruled dead and runners could only advance two bases.
After about a 10-minute discussion, the umpires ruled that the runner had to return to third. Canterbury got a flyout to end the threat and keep playing.
“During that whole commotion, I went from horror to complete disbelief to anger,” Woodall said. “I started thinking about it more and more, and I knew the rule with the dead ball. I was glad when the umpires were able to see it, too.”
“We can’t turn back the clocks now, so we’re just going to have accept it with joy and make good examples,” said Pine Castle coach Mark Ritchhart, whose team was the runnerup last year.
In the ninth, Woodall led off with a single and Lacy Scherer came in as a pinch-runner. Scherer moved to second on an error and advanced to third on a groundout. Scherer then scored the winning run when the Pine Castle shortstop mishandled Hill’s grounder.
“We didn’t want the game to end like we thought it could have,” Hill said. “We didn’t put in all that work all season to come up short. I knew when it was my turn up to bat, it was all or nothing. I’m just so glad that Coach Moore believed in me, and I wanted to do whatever I could to win help us win again.”