Bliss makes most of freshman season

Published 7:55 pm Saturday, June 15, 2019


Daily News

It’s not unusual for a baseball player, no matter how successful he was in high school, to have to play the waiting game when he arrives in college.

Ryan Bliss isn’t just any player, though.

Bliss was a four-year starter at shortstop for the Troup Tigers, and he established himself as one of the state’s best all-around players.

When it came time for Bliss to choose a college, he went with Auburn, and he joined a program that was riding high after reaching the NCAA super-regional in 2018.

Bliss showed what he could do when he had a successful fall season, establishing himself as a player to watch when the season rolled around in February.

Sure enough, when Auburn opened its season against Georgia Southern on a chilly February evening, Bliss was camped out as the starting second baseman.

Bliss was in the lineup from day one, and that’s where he has remained throughout the season.

There’s only one Auburn player who has played in all 64 games this season, and that’s Bliss.

“Of course my goal was to start, but I didn’t expect to be starting every game,” Bliss said. “I’ve played almost every inning of every game. I got taken out one inning at Georgia Tech. Other than that I’ve played every game, every inning. To be able to do that, I wasn’t really excepting. But I’m glad it happened.”

Bliss will be in his usual starting spot when Auburn tangles with Mississippi State on Sunday in the opening round of the College World Series in Omaha.

Auburn (38-26) went 3-0 in the NCAA regional at Georgia Tech to advance to the super-regional where it beat North Carolina in a best-of-three series.

After the teams split the first two games, Auburn made it to Omaha with a 14-7 win over North Carolina on Monday.

Bliss has been as valuable as any Auburn player during NCAA play.

In the six NCAA games combined, Bliss has 11 hits, including a solo home run against Georgia Tech, and he has 11 runs scored and five RBIs.

A year ago, after finishing his senior season at Troup, Bliss watched as Auburn lost a heart-breaker to Florida in game three of their super-regional. Florida won that game 3-2 on a walk-off home run.

Now, Bliss has been able to help Auburn get to Omaha for the first time since 1997.

“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.”

That Auburn would be in this position was far from a given after it went 0-2 in the SEC tournament to fall to 33-25.

After receiving an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament, though, Auburn took off, beating ACC powerhouses Georgia Tech and North Carolina to make it to the College World Series.

“We’ve really gotten together at the end of the season,” Bliss said. “We’ve locked arms together knowing that it’s just us. We’re playing for one another, and everything’s just turned out for the best.”

Auburn’s most dramatic win came in the NCAA regional against Georgia Tech.

Auburn trailed 5-2 heading to the ninth inning, but it rallied for a 6-5 win, with Steven Williams hitting a three-run, walk-off home run to win it.

In that same game, Bliss hit a solo home run in the first inning to give Auburn the early lead.

“When something like that happens, and Steven hits a walk-off on an 0-2 pitch in the ninth and we’re down by two, you kind of start to think we’ve got a chance,” Bliss said. “Somebody’s on our side, somebody’s looking over us. So let’s just lock arms and do it. That was kind of the spark plug for the rest of the games.”

Auburn beat Georgia Tech 4-1 the following day to win the regional, and it got past North Carolina in the super-regional.

In the deciding game of the best-of-three super-regional, Auburn scored a remarkable 13 runs in the first inning, and it cruised from there.

Bliss had a walk, a hit, and two runs scored during that marathon first inning.

Now, Bliss will try to keep the good times rolling in the College World Series.

“We weren’t supposed to be here,” Bliss said. “Nobody had us where were are now. Everybody doubted us, and we just wanted to prove that we’re a quality team. And now we’re in Omaha.”

Bliss is a key reason why Auburn is among the eight teams still standing.

Bliss has been one of Auburn’s most consistent offensive players this season.

Among the every-day players, Bliss’ .283 batting average is tied for second on the team, and he has a .372 on-base percentage.

Bliss has three home runs and 11 doubles, and he has 37 RBIs and 49 runs scored.

Bliss is also getting it done on the base paths with 11 stolen bases in 13 attempts.

Bliss has been outstanding defensively as well, committing just five errors in 46 games, and because of his range he gets to a lot of balls that other fielders wouldn’t.

While Bliss has enjoyed plenty of good times on the ballfield, he said the overall experience at Auburn has “been everything and more. I knew I made the right decision going to Auburn, and it’s exceeded whatever I thought I was getting into. I couldn’t have made a better decision. I couldn’t be happier where I am.”