AHS Eyeing Back-to-Back Titles




Following it’s securing of an AHSAA state title in 2021, the Auburn High school’s baseball program has been in the national spotlight throughout the past year. The Tigers were named the preseason No. 1 team in the state of Alabama, press around the organization has been at an all-time high and fans have been anxious to see their hometown team return to the diamond.

Auburn head coach Matt Cimo and company have been doing their best to rebuild a gutted program while maintaining atop the baseball world, starting the season 5-1 and continuing to monitor the state of the squad.

“I have four position players who played last year,” Cimo said. “Everybody else is new. We’re just trying to figure things out right now.”

Despite the imminent challenge of starting five new players in the field, the skipper must also tend to the state of his pitching staff.

“We lost a lot of good pitching last year,” Cimo said. “So we’re just taking things as it comes and hoping we do well.”

For the program as a whole, it appears to be a bit of a juggling act.

“We’re still playing a bunch of guys in different positions,” Cimo said. “Different pitchers, we’re just trying to figure it out.”

The good news for Cimo’s coaching staff: the culture buy-in has taken care of itself.

“Our kids, they work hard,” Cimo said. They believe in each other and that’s half the battle.”

From a rotation standpoint, Auburn will look to Senior Ryan Olsen to set the precedent for his teammates.

“Ryan Olsen will be our leader on the pitching staff,” Cimo said. “He’s been with me for four years and he’s the one who got the last out for us in the state championship last year. Olsen’s senior leadership and his hard work is what a lot of those pitchers are going to follow.”

Leadership responsibilities in the field will be assigned to senior Patrick McGlon.

“In the field you’ve got Pat McGlon,” Cimo said. “He’s been with me four years and was MVP of the state championship game. Hopefully his leadership will carry over and help the younger kids out.”

Keeping confidence in one another and blocking out external expectations will likely prove imperative for this year’s group.

“We’re ranked preseason No. 1 in the state which doesn’t really mean a whole lot because it doesn’t really matter until you get in the playoffs,” Cimo said. “Our area is so hard and when it comes down to playing four games that matter, if you go 1-1 against each team, you have to win the tiebreaker to get in the playoffs.”

Cimo believes his team has handled the taske well, given the precedent laid before them.

“I think they’re doing pretty well,” Cimo said. “This team has a little more pressure because of what our team did last year.”

Navigating pre-area play has long been a period of time for Cimo to gain an understanding of where his team is and how to execute his formula for a complete season.

“I always divide my year into three seasons,” Cimo said. “This is kind of like our spring training where we try different things, then we go into area play where hopefully we can win and get in the playoffs. The third season is the playoff run.”

Although winning games is certainly at the forefront of Auburn’s agenda, the Tigers’ head coach is also hopeful to see a renewed passion for playing cross-town rivals such as Opelika which he believes has faded since the induction of showcase baseball.

“The last few years, it hasn’t meant a whole lot,” Cimo said. “Because of travel ball, it’s kind of ruined our cross-town rivals.”

Cimo wishes that local kids still faced off against those in neighboring communities.

“Our kids used to play Dixie against each other in Dixie Youth and compete,” Cimo said. “So everybody kind of knew who each other was and it was always such a big rivalry.”

As a longtime member of the rivalry, Cimo recalls how passionate the contests have been in years past.

“It was so intense in the early 2000s and when they were in our area,” Cimo said. “When they got out of our area — because of travel ball — the rivalry is not as big as it used to be.”

According to the skipper, the lack-luster regard expands beyond the parameters of Opelika.

“I think it got kind of ruined, even with Smiths Station and Central,” Cimo said. “Our kids used to play against each other in Dixie Youth and all that when they were young. I think the travel ball kind of hurt all of that stuff a little bit.”

In short, Cimo wishes to see a refreshed take on community pride.

“I think travel ball kind of stinks in the sense that it takes away from your hometown,” Cimo said.

Following up a state title is never an easy task; according to their head coach, the Auburn Tigers have the opportunity to not only reclaim what is currently theirs, but reestablish a culture that is beneficial to the community as a whole.


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