BY HARRISON TARR
FOR THE OBSERVER
There is no task more challenging than defending a state title in high school sports. Between player turnover, reestablishing a team identity and battling the target that has been placed on its back, teams often cave when placed in the spotlight. Head coach Matt Cimo and the Auburn High School baseball programs are no strangers to these hurdles; the group has found a way to remain in the championship conversation.
The Tigers emerged victorious in nine of the squad’s first 10 contests, falling only to out-of-area Enterprise and have continually improved as the season progressed; their skipper is hopeful to continue the trajectory.
“We just have to continue to get better a little bit,” Cimo said.
In efforts to develop their skill set, Cimo claims that his group has adopted a mentality which places emphasis upon focusing on each moment.
“We gotta really concentrate on one pitch, one out and one inning at a time,” Cimo said. “We’re just trying to win each inning.”
The long term skipper of the blue and white is hopeful that — in focusing on the small details of their game — his squad can establish a true identity which has been absent to this point in 2022.
“Not really,” Cimo said. “And we’ve got two weeks to do it because area play starts in two weeks.”
An exception to the trend of lacking identity, the Tiger pitching rotation has staked its claim as one of the premier staffs in their classification.
“Ryan Olsen’s been pitching really well for us,” Cimo said. “And Griffin Stweart.”
For Cimo, the biggest question mark remains on the opposite side of the plate: hitting consistency.
“Offensively, it’s just been collectively,” Cimo said. “Someone gets hot one day and the next day somebody else gets hot. So we’ve been pretty lucky there that we haven’t had one person carry us.”
Cimo also noted his desire to continue finding offensive production from all parts of his lineup.
With half the season now behind him, the skipper had the opportunity to look back on his team’s recent stretch of success, pointing out his pride in back-to-back victories over crosstown rival Opelika.
“Anytime you beat your rival, it’s pretty big,” Cimo said. “It was pretty big, a lot of confidence for our kids too.”
It comes as little surprise that a pair of victories over Opelika served as a confidence boost for the Tigers, given the talend on the mound for the Dawgs.
“Opelika, they pitched the ball really well,” Cimo said. “They’re a pretty good team so it was good to get away with two wins.”
Auburn’s head coach noted that this year served as a preface to what next year’s schedule is going to look like come area play.
“Next year, they’ll be in our area,” Cimo said. “So it would be really good to beat them next year.”
In terms of area play in 2022, Cimo is hopeful that his group is ready to take on the likes of Smiths Station and Central.
“They’re good, and Central’s really good,” Cimo said. “We’ve got a competitive area, so you can’t have a bad day. If you have a bad day, you’re sitting at home during the playoffs.”
The skipper believes that the competitive nature of the area should prove beneficial to the Tigers come playoff time.
“I think that’s where it helps us,” Cimo said. “Our area is so competitive that it helps when we go into the playoffs. Some teams are almost automatically in, here you have to win or you’re out.”
With area play just two weeks away, the blue and white look to continue their hot start with yet another victory over a struggling Faith Academy squad in Mobile on Thursday evening. First pitch between the Tigers and the Rams is set for 4 p.m. CST.