The Auburn High baseball team will try to keep the hope of a second-straight state title alive when the Tigers travel south to face Baker on Friday in the second round of the 7A State Baseball Championship.
The Tigers put forth a strong showing in the opening round last week, edging Enterprise 3-2 in the first game before unleashing the offense in a 13-2 effort to win the series.
Auburn High head coach Matt Cimo noted the team's solid pitching and defense and timely hitting as keys to the win in the first game, and Patrick McGlon's grand slam as the spark that helped the Tigers cruise to victory in the second game.
"I think they responded well to the pressure in the first round, and they played well," Cimo said. "I think they relaxed a little bit and maybe the game slowed down for them a little bit. They felt a little more comfortable.
"When you get to this time of year, every pitch is just so important and you’re on pins and needles waiting for what’s going to happen. I think once you win one you get a little bit looser, I think, if you’re hitting right."
While the Tigers make a yearly trip to face teams from south Alabama, it's been years since they've matched up against Baker,with the last matchup in 2016.
"The first time we played Baker was in 1998 when we went to the Final Four. We beat them down there. And then they came up and played us in 2003 and 2004, and they won back-to-back state championships," said Cimo. "They’ve been in the playoffs, and they’re always a good team."
Cimo added that he doesn't think traveling for a road game is a big deal because it's something the Tigers are used to doing.
"I don’t think it’s who we play; it’s how we play and how we as a team understand what we have to do to win," he said. "We’ve got to really just concentrate and consistently do the little things better than the other team. We’ve got to throw strikes, and we’ve got to make the routine plays and just move runners over and once in awhile get a big two-out hit."
The Tigers will face Baker at 5 p.m. Friday, with the second game following the end of the first matchup. The winner of the series will face either Prattville or McGill-Toolen in the semifinals.
"It’s a baseball community, and they’re going to be good. I’m sure they’re well-coached," Cimo said. "It’s going to be a fun atmosphere down there, and we’ll just go down and see what happens."