Auburn gets big send-off
Published 12:45 pm Thursday, June 13, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
After getting a send-off from fans and well-wishers on Wednesday morning, the Auburn Tigers began their journey to Omaha, Neb. for the College World Series.
Auburn, which beat North Carolina in a super-regional last week to earn its invitation to Omaha, will play Mississippi State in its World Series opener on Sunday.
When Auburn takes the field for Sunday’s game, former Troup Tiger Ryan Bliss will be in his usual spot at second base.
Bliss has started every game of his freshman season, and he’s had at least one hit in every NCAA tournament game so far.
Auburn went 3-0 in an NCAA regional at Georgia Tech, and it won two of three games against North Carolina in the super-regional.
Bliss, who was at a summer-league game on Tuesday between Troup and LaGrange, is looking forward to experiencing the College World Series first-hand.
“I didn’t really start getting into (the College World Series) until the recruiting process started my freshman year,” Bliss said Tuesday night. “I remember thinking one day I’d like to do that, and I’m on my way tomorrow morning. So it’s just amazing. It’s a blessing.”
Auburn nearly made it to Omaha last year, but it lost a heart-breaker to Florida in the super-regional.
The teams split the first two games of the series, and Florida won game three 3-2 on a walk-off home run.
Bliss, who had already signed with Auburn by the time of that super-regional in 2018, was hoping he could help the team take the next step this spring, and he’s done that.
“I remember watching the Florida game and they got walked-off on,” Bliss said. “And I was able to help contribute to them getting (to Omaha). It’s amazing.”
There are eight teams in the College World Series, and they’ll be divided into two four-team pools.
The winner of each pool will meet in a best-of-three championship series.
After losing a pair of games in the SEC tournament, Auburn was 33-25, and it had a losing record in conference play.
“We weren’t supposed to be here,” Bliss said. “Nobody had us where we are now. We wanted to prove to everybody that we’re a quality team, and now we’re in Omaha.”
Auburn punched its ticket to Omaha by beating North Carolina 14-7 in Monday’s third-and-deciding game.
The man who recruited Bliss, third-year head coach Butch Thompson, called it “a special day for our baseball program.”
“A lot of folks, any coach or player that has ever put on this Auburn uniform, this is for you,” Thompson said. “I hope that a lot of our Auburn fans, which is a lot of folks, they usually have different June plans and I hope we have wrecked that for them and they have to find their way to Omaha, Neb.”
OF NOTE: For much more on Bliss, as well as the Auburn baseball team, see Saturday’s sports section.