Canterbury reclaims softball supremacy by winning 2A title

For four years, Canterbury’s softball program tried to reclaim what it had lost. 

From 2008-2017, the Crusaders were among the best in Florida. They made nine state semifinal appearances and won a bay area record four titles, cementing their legacy as the greatest softball dynasty in Tampa Bay. 

In fact, Canterbury had been on top for so long it seemed as if the state tournament could not go on without them. 

So when the Crusaders fell out of title contention the past three seasons, losing to eventual champion Academy at the Lakes in the region final in 2018 and ‘19 and having their season cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic a year ago, many figured their abdication was temporary and they would be back to beat all pretenders to their throne.

Sure enough, Canterbury regained its supremacy in 2A, winning its fifth state title in that classification with a 3-1 win over Jacksonville University Christian on Wednesday.

All the luster of past championships, all the postseason confidence they carried, helped the Crusaders make their opponents feel uneasy, especially at the 2A level. 

That is part of a detailed blueprint that includes putting together a schedule that yields few easy nights. Those tough games prepared the Crusaders for anything they would face in Clermont this week. 

University Christian, meanwhile, was confined to playing teams primarily in the Jacksonville area at its level. While the Christians compiled an impressive 18-2 record and gave up just 28 runs , they had not faced nearly the caliber of competition as their state final opponent.

The difference showed, though it took some time. 

Canterbury — gasp! — trailed 1-0 going into the bottom of the second inning. 

The deficit didn’t last. The Crusaders manufactured two runs in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead, then added another in the fifth for some insurance.

And they did it with Irianis Garcia and Alayah Pedersen providing the only hits for Canterbury.  

The pitching of Mackenzie Bergstrom and Morgen Talley did the rest. They allowed a combined.two hits and one earned run.  

For the Crusaders, this title looked like a debutante party for softball’s next generation. The roster has just one senior (Sarah Young) and includes three freshmen (Payton Cushman, Irianis Garcia and Tayten Moore) and three eighth-graders (Sammy Beltran, Gisselle De Meyer and Morgen Talley). 

Knowing the core of this team has a future together, the dynasty could last for a while.