TAMPA — Jefferson finished its district schedule with a six-inning, 10-run mercy rule win Wednesday night, but longtime coach Pop Cuesta wasn't in the mood to celebrate.
The Dragons beat Class 4A-9 foe Middleton 14-4, but after the game Cuesta could think only about missed opportunities. Jefferson will go into the district tournament as the No. 2 seed, but Cuesta said he's worried about his team's mentality.
"These kids don't realize it," Cuesta said. "They think you just show up and you're supposed to win. You've got to play when you come to the ballpark. A lot of times they're not into it. And the bench, instead of being alert, telling guys to go back (to the base), they're over there talking about their girlfriends and what we're going to do later."
Granted, the Dragons (17-4, 14-2) began the season winning their first nine games, but Cuesta knows it's more important to be playing at your best late. Many years, he has brought middle-of-the-road teams into the postseason surging and bent on upsetting top seeds.
"I worry because for years and years we would go into district play and we play teams that were No. 1 in the state and we beat them," Cuesta said. "If it happens to them, it can happen to us."
Jefferson was clearly the better team Wednesday, but the Dragons also took advantage of a Middleton team that issued 14 walks and left seven runners on base.
Dragons third baseman Corbin Olmstead was 3-for-5 with four RBIs, finishing with an RBI single in the sixth inning to give Jefferson a 10-run lead. Jefferson shortstop Steven Negron scored three times and was 2-for-3, hitting an RBI triple in the first, then stroking a run-scoring double in the right-center gap in the fifth.
Middleton third baseman Dexture McCall was 3-for-3, including a two-run homer that tied the game at 3 in the third inning.
Jefferson starter Jimmy Herget improved to 5-1 despite struggling. He left with two out in the fourth with a 7-3 lead and the bases loaded. But reliever Andy Vasquez quelled the threat and retired all seven batters he faced.
"Andy is perfect for that lineup," Cuesta said. "They love the fastball and Andy's fastball comes in slower and slower."