TAMPA — A Jefferson assistant coach walked off the field, shaking his head in disbelief. Head coach Pop Cuesta told someone near his dugout that the Dragons beat themselves.
Four days after celebrating its first district title in five years, Jefferson watched its season come to a crashing halt Tuesday night with a 6-5 loss to Bradenton-Lakewood Ranch. The nine-inning contest lasted 3 hours, 1 minute. "This should have been a seven-inning game," Cuesta said.
A fielding error by Jefferson shortstop Steven Negron, the Dragons' third, led to two unearned runs in the top of the ninth that sent Lakewood Ranch (13-12) into Friday's region semifinals against Jesuit.
The Dragons (20-8), who battled back from an early 3-0 deficit, stranded 13 baserunners, eight in scoring position. The final opportunity came in the bottom of the ninth. With a run in and the bases loaded and one out, Jacob Lopez grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
And Jefferson was one out from victory in the seventh, when Brett Hanewich's double tied the score.
"We didn't get the clutch hit, and that was the difference in the game," Cuesta said. "It's tough, but I told the seniors they did a good job for us."