The Auburn High baseball team will step into the first round of the playoffs this weekend against Baker after experiencing something new over the last two weeks for the regular season — namely, adversity.
After reeling off 25 wins in the first 27 games, the Tigers hit a relative rough patch in area play, dropping two of three to Smiths Station and losing a close one-run game to Central Phenix-City.
But facing adversity that late in the season counts as good experience, said head coach Matt Cimo, especially since the season is on the line in every game going forward.
"I think that's a big experience for us," Cimo said. "I think our area is so competitive that once we start area play, it's the playoffs. They're so close. You've got to try to win every game; if you don't the season's over with.
The late-season adversity showed the Tigers that they have to " do the little things a lot better," said Cimo, echoing a common refrain from the head coach over the years.
"We've got to move runners over. We've got to get runners into third when we get the opportunity to," he said. "We've just got to do the little things because we didn't do that some against Central and Smiths and it cost us.
"Just getting into the playoffs is hard. Once you get in, you hope you get hot."
The Tigers will lean on their senior leadership when they travel to face Baker on the road in the first round on Friday. Cimo noted the senior group of Jack Tullier, Ryan and Riley Austin, Matt Rhodes, Brady Fuller, Webb Veronese, Will Turner, and Judson Waters, who has "been Mr. Consistent for us."
The Tigers will square off against a familiar foe in Baker, which has a losing overall record but pieced together a 7-2 mark in area play. The Tigers and Hornets often meet in the playoffs. Auburn won the lone game over Baker 9-4 in March.
The Tigers and Hornets will play at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Friday, with a noon game on Saturday, if needed.
"I just hope the kids focus on the little things and we can get some big wins and maybe get lucky and come back home next week," Cimo said.