Tigers Focusing on ‘Little Things’ Ahead of Playoffs

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BY HARRISON TARR

FOR THE OBSERVER

AUBURN —

In May of 2021, the Tigers of Auburn high school stood atop of the Alabama baseball world when the group emerged victorious from the 7A AHSAA state championship over Hoover. Since then, head coach Matt Cimo and his team were tasked with reloading and preparing to defend their throne.

The Tigers have embraced the challenge, racking up 24 wins in their first 30 games and earning a bid as both region champions and state championship contenders.

“These guys have played well,” Cimo said. “We’ve played against really good competition so I think they understand that they can be a pretty good team if we put all things together.”

According to the skipper, Auburn’s regular season schedule served as the team’s best tool to in preparation for both area and postseason play.

“Our area is so competitive,” Cimo said. “We try to play the best we can and get ready by our area because just getting out of the area is so competitive.”

Despite a promising season and an impressive record, the 2022 campaign has not been one of complete smooth sailing for the blue and white; the Tigers dropped two of their final three area games to Central on April 14.

Cimo was merely thankful that his group was defeated in the regular season.

“That whooping we got last Thursday, I’m just glad it was before the playoffs,” Cimo said.

Although the group struggled to secure an outright area championship last week, Auburn did itself a favor in its sweep of Smiths Station the week prior.

“We played well enough the week before to get us into the playoff,” Cimo said. “That’s the key. Hoping for the best.”

With area play behind them and just one regular season game remaining, the Tigers’ focus has now shifted on what some might consider a novelty: the fundamentals.

“We just gotta go back to the basics and start doing a lot of little things,” Cimo said. “Just concentrate on throwing and catching, doing the things that help us win ball games. The fewer mistakes we can make the better.”

If the blue and white are able to clean up ‘silly’ mistakes, the group will provide some much-appreciated support to an experienced pitching staff who has had success on a routine basis thus far.

“It’s been doing pretty well,” Cimo said. “Griffin and (Olson) have been really good for us. Other kids who have filled in have helped out a lot too. We’ve been blessed in terms of pitching.”

While acknowledging that there’s always room for improvement, the head coach was sure to commend his defense’s efforts throughout the season.

“We have been (defensively solid) all year,” Cimo said. “That’s the key, making routine plays. That’s what we’ve been doing.”

The longtime skipper says that he has emphasized to his group to simply continue to think small, both at the plate and in the field.

“They’ve just got to think small,” Cimo said. “If they can just do the little things, hopefully something big will happen.”

As for the potential of added pressure to follow-up a state title in 2021, Cimo says that the group is locked in on this year’s bigger picture.

“There’s no weight,” Cimo said. “That’s not what we’ve been worried about; we’re just doing our best and going into the future.”

Auburn wraps up its regular season on Saturday, April 23 at 11 a.m. when the Tigers play host to the Blue Devils of Columbus High School (Georgia).

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