The Auburn High baseball team returned to the diamond on Thursday after a few days off thanks to spring break. When the team’s game against Austin finally ended, the elephant in the room was whether an unexpected break from play was waiting right around the corner.
Auburn struggled in the East Alabama Classic opener at home, as the Tigers watched the Black Bears put up eight runs in the first two innings on their way to a 9-3 victory. The loss could be one not soon forgotten by the Tigers, who are supposed to play Faith Academy at 3 p.m. barring any game cancellations due to the coronavirus.
Auburn coach Matt Cimo said after Thursday’s loss that he had not addressed the team about the season potentially being in jeopardy. Having said that, that didn’t keep his players from asking questions.
“That’s everybody’s conversation, you know?” Cimo said about the season’s uncertainty. “You can’t control the uncontrollable. That’s something that we can’t control, so whatever we’re told to do we’ll do it. This is something serious.”
As far as Cimo was concerned, the only thing the Tigers could worry about on Thursday was facing the Bears. Unfortunately for the veteran coach and his players, they fell behind quickly and could not keep up.
Austin put runners on second and third in the top of the first and pushed a run across on a wild pitch to go up 1-0. After a walk loaded the bases for the Black Bears, Clayton Barnett delivered a single that scored one run before he drew a rundown that allowed a second run to score.
The situation only got worse in the second, as lead-off batter William Kennedy drilled a solo home run as part of a five-run inning for the Black Bears.
“When they score that many runs in the first couple innings, it’s kind of tough to come back,” Cimo said. “We just didn’t have any mojo. The momentum wasn’t there. It was like we were still on spring break — I’m kind of hoping that’s what it is.
The Tigers filed through five different pitchers in the contest — Ryan Olson, Caleb Sanders, David Hixon, Matthew Rhodes and Brock Hughes — in their efforts to slow down the Austin offense. While the later relievers were able to hold the Black Bears to just one unearned run in the last five innings, the damage had been done.
The Tigers’ batters, meanwhile, combined for 11 hits but found scoring opportunities to be few and far between. Left field Cameron Chavis brought home a run on a second-inning sacrifice fly, third baseman Patrick McGlon delivered a third-inning RBI groundout and shortstop Webb Veronese came through with an RBI double in the game’s final frame.
Once the game ended and Cimo and the players began prepping the field for the Classic’s second game of the day, the talk among players centered on what was next. Although some of the conversations were light-hearted — one player joked they would likely still have workouts even if the season was canceled — it was evident that the status of the team was at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
Cimo, the Tigers’ ever-positive skipper, stood by his mantra to pay attention to what his Tigers could control. As he greeted his team outside the dugout, he asked what time first pitch was Friday and told the players what time to be at the park.
“This is always like our preseason, and then our season is our four area games. That’s where we’ve got to be peaking at. Hopefully, we get the postseason,” Cimo said. “We break our seasons down into thirds. We’ve got a young team. Hopefully, they’ll learn from it. They’re young, and the kids can handle adversity pretty well. It’s just part of the game.
“It’s just something we’ve got to overcome, and hopefully we’ll get better.”