Auburn, Bliss make it to World Series
Published 10:57 pm Monday, June 10, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – They’re Omaha-bound.
Ryan Bliss and the Auburn Tigers battered North Carolina for 13 first-inning runs on the way to a 14-7 victory in the third-and-deciding game of the NCAA super-regional on Monday.
Auburn advances to the College World Series in Omaha, and it will play Mississippi State in a first-round game on Saturday.
Bliss, a freshman second baseman from Troup High, was right in the middle of things for Auburn.
Bliss had two hits, a walk and three runs scored, and he was on base twice during the decisive first inning.
While the game wasn’t over after the first inning, there was little doubt it was going to be Auburn doing the celebrating when the final out was recorded.
Auburn advances to the College World Series for the first time since 1997.
“To see our players celebrate is special to me,” Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said. “To see the perseverance and to see these young men rally around one another, I am proud to be their coach.”
Auburn advanced to the super-regional by going 3-0 in a regional at Georgia Tech.
Auburn rallied for an 11-7 victory in game one of the super-regional, and North Carolina evened the series with a 2-0 win on Sunday.
Facing elimination for the first time in the NCAA tournament, Auburn took care of business early on Monday.
Auburn sent 17 batters to the plate in the first inning, nearly batting around twice while coming through with the second-biggest inning in the history of the NCAA tournament.
Bliss hit twice in the first inning, and he had a walk and a single while scoring two runs.
Bliss added a double in the seventh inning, and he came around to score Auburn’s 14th and final run.
The Tar Heels hung tough and tried to make a game of it, but they never got closer than seven runs.
Leadoff hitter Judd Ward had three of Auburn’s 18 hits, and he hit a home run.
Rankin Woley and Julien Edouard each had three hits for Auburn, and Bliss, Conor Davis, Will Holland and Kason Howell had two hits apiece.
Tanner Burns started and pitched two scoreless innings, and Richard Fitts got the win in relief while throwing 5 1/3 innings.
Cody Greenhill gave up one run in 1 2/3 innings to finish it.
“I’m proud of every player that’s ever put on an Auburn uniform,” Thompson said. “(It’s) a special group of guys who hung in there like crazy and I’m proud of them.”
One of those special guys is Bliss, who has been one of Auburn’s most effective players in NCAA play.
In the regional and super regionals combined, Bliss has 11 hits, including a home run and a double, and he has five RBIs and eight runs scored.
Bliss has also been flawless in the field from his second-base position.
Bliss, the only Auburn player who has played in all 64 games this season, is hitting .283 with a .372 on-base percentage.
Bliss has three home runs, 11 doubles, 37 RBIs, and 49 runs scored.