Déjá Vu: Tigers Meet Familiar Foe in State Semifinals

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photo by robert noles / the observer

BY HARRISON TARR

FOR THE OBSERVER

AUBURN —

Fans of the Auburn high school baseball program have had a lot to cheer about in 2022; the Tigers posted a 25-6 record across the regular season, were in contention with what many consider one of the state’s premier areas until the very last region game and have cruised their way to the final four for the second time in as many years.

Simply put, head coach Matt Cimo’s squad has been red-hot coming down the stretch and is showing no signs of slowing down.

The squad’s equally-opportunistic approach to every opponent was evident in the Tigers 7-1 and 10-1 handing of Bryant in the second round of the ASHAA state playoffs, about which Cimo noted that every outing is a fresh start.

“Every game is a new slate,” Cimo said. “You can’t think of the past, you’ve got to think about what’s going on right now and be part of the future. My kids — every week of practice — have just gotten better and better.”

In their first four playoff games, the Tigers have posted 33 runs, allowing their opponents to push just two runners across the plate in that same time frame. Auburn’s pitching has been lights-out and the bats have been alive; this weekend’s opponent will likely provide a much tougher obstacle on the group’s path to the state title.

The area champion Central Red Devils are playing host and should be hungry for redemption after falling to Auburn in the same situation just one year ago.

“Central is a good team,” Cimo said. “We have to do a lot of little things to stay in the ballgame with them.”

Central enters the matchup with what one might assume to be the upper hand, given the fact that the Red Devils took two of three games in the regular season series between the rivals; the Auburn skipper is keenly aware of where his group went wrong.

“I think we made a lot of mistakes,” Cimo said. “Central took advantage of a lot of the mistakes that we made. We can’t make the same mistakes; if we don’t, it’s going to be really competitive games.”

To take down the reigning area champions for the second consecutive season, Cimo claims his group has to get back to the basics, taking care of the little things.”

“All of the above,” Cimo said. “Throwing, catching, putting the ball in play, getting ahead as hitters and just making routine plays.”

The head coach also noted that it is more imperative now than it ever has been for each member of his team to do their job to the best of their abilities.

“It’s going to be just everybody doing their job,” Cimo said. “Whatever the situation calls for, doing their job when the situation arises. If everybody takes care of all the little things, we’ll be alright.”

Between their familiarity with their opponent and the magnitude of the moment, Cimo is optimistic that his team is capable of remaining level headed, appreciating the opportunity while maintaining focus.

“You’ve got to balance that,” Cimo said. “This is an exciting time to be in the final four, one of four teams left in the state, but then you realize that you’ve got to go out there and perform if you want to get to the next level. I think our kids are aware of what’s going on.”

Come Saturday afternoon, only two teams will still hold on to their dreams of winning the 2022 ASHAA state championship; there is much baseball to be played between now and then. Auburn’s final four run begins on Friday, May 13 at 4:30 p.m. CST at Central High School.

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