The Tigers made this out to be their state championship game.
They don’t know what’s next. No one does. So head coach Matt Cimo brought the blue map from out of the trophy case and propped it up in front of his team Saturday afternoon before the Tigers took on Hewitt-Trussville.
And he did so with a smile. It was time to make the most of it and have some fun with it, they figured, before trotting out on the field to play one more time.
That’s exactly what they did.
Auburn High beat Hewitt-Trussville 13-9 on Saturday before teammates embraced and seniors soaked it in, all uncertain of the season’s future going into next week’s school shutdown.
“It means a lot,” Auburn High senior Jay Thomason said simply of the win — and of the last day of baseball for a while.
The Tigers rolled up six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to separate themselves in a back-and-forth battle.
Auburn High met Hewitt-Trussville for the state championship in two of the last four years, in 2018 and 2016. The Tigers put their trophy from the 2018 title win up on a shelf in the dugout during the game.
“We figured this was going to be the state championship today,” Cimo said with a shrug and a smile as his team celebrated the win. “It was just a fun day. We tried to make a positive note for our seniors — because who knows? I hope it’s not the last day.”
Hewitt-Trussville surged ahead 4-3 with three runs in the top of the third, before Auburn High went ahead with two runs to make it 5-4 in the bottom of the third, then Hewitt-Trussville surged ahead again with three runs to make it 7-5 in the top of the fourth.
But that’s when Auburn High broke it open pushing six runs across in the bottom of the fourth. Thomason tripled to score two runs including the go-ahead to put Auburn High up 8-7 during the rally.
“We definitely took this game a lot more intense than we would any other game, because this might be our last game playing together,” Thomason said.
“It felt a lot more closer to home than a regular-season game.”
Fellow senior Brock Hughes held that trophy with a grin postgame, and was seen taking a look over that field as the players started cleanup.
“It’s huge — and just being possibly one of our last games playing here, it’s probably one of the biggest wins of our season in our eyes,” Hughes said. Then he shared what was going through his head postgame.
“‘This might be it. I might not ever step back out here again.’ I just wanted to take it in, you know? It’s sad.”
Sad, but at least bittersweet. Auburn High also recognized the seniors before the game started, just in case the season never gets resumed. Alabama public schools shut down for two and a half weeks starting next Wednesday amid growing concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, and when school shuts down, all athletics activities shut down with it.
Hughes agreed it was a bit poetic to play Hewitt-Trussville in this game. “It’s a good final game. Lot of back-story with them,” he said.
Auburn High lost to Hewitt-Trussville in 2016 to earn a “red map” — the AHSAA’s runner-up trophy — before winning the coveted “blue map” which goes to the state champions in 2018. Auburn High had that 2018 trophy handy as well as the 2017 red map earned in a runner-up finish to Hoover. It was all for fun, and all to just make the game a little more memorable for the seniors.
“Before the game (Cimo) brought them in and said, ‘This is like our state championship’ — you know, just in case it doesn’t work out,” Hughes said. “We brought the intensity quick — and the feeling to win, it’s incredible.”
It was baseball, one more time before the unknown.
That alone was worth celebrating.
“You can’t control the things you can’t control — the uncontrollables,” Cimo said. “This has never happened before. You just kind of make adjustments. Life’s tough and you get through a lot of bad things at times, and whatever it is, you’ve just got to adjust and make the best out of it. Hopefully we can do that.”