Auburn’s Bliss receives on field, off field recognition

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Photo contributed by Jacob Taylor / AU Athletics  

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Athletics

Junior Auburn shortstop Ryan Bliss has been named a semifinalist for the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award, the College Baseball Foundation announced last Tuesday.

Bliss is one of 30 semifinalist shortstops, including one of three from the Southeastern Conference.

Coming off an All-American campaign in the shortened 2020 season, the LaGrange, Georgia, native has turned in career-best numbers in 2021, leading the team in average (.349), on-base percentage (.418), slugging percentage (.619), runs (43), hits (66) and total bases (117). Bliss ranks top 10 in the league in average, slugging, hits, home runs and total bases and is second in the league with 76 total bases and tied for second with 42 hits in conference play.

Bliss has turned in a .953 fielding percentage with 118 assists in 45 games this season. He leads an Auburn infield and team that ranks second in the country with 50 doubles plays, including 40 ground ball double plays.

The junior has been a staple in the Auburn lineup since stepping foot on campus prior to the 2019 College World Series season, starting in all but two games in his Auburn career. Bliss is a .320 career hitter and has totaled 165 hits in 129 games played. He has multiple hits in a SEC-best 24 games this season and 55 games in his career.

The Brooks Wallace Award, sponsored by Mizuno, honors the nation’s top shortstop and will be presented this summer by the College Baseball Foundation. It is named for former Texas Tech shortstop Brooks Wallace.

Adding to his accomplishments, Bliss has been named to the 2021 Southeastern Conference Baseball Community Service Team, the league office announced last Wednesday.

Bliss has not only become the face of the program due to his play on the field and interaction with the Auburn Family off it, but he has also pursued a number of community service projects during his time on The Plains.

Bliss’ efforts in the community have been highlighted by participating in World Read Aloud Day at local elementary schools the last three years, including virtually during COVID-19. He has volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse to help clean up the damage done by the tornado that devastated East Alabama in March 2019. Additionally, he visited and uplifted patients at Children’s of Alabama and participated in a baseball day camp for the Miracle League of East Alabama.

In collaboration with the Hudson Family Foundation, Bliss recorded a congratulatory and encouraging video for students from Auburn City Schools, Opelika City Schools and Lee County School being inducted in the Legends Club. He has also helped the Jason Dufner Foundation stuff backpacks to be distributed to the less fortunate around the holidays.

This past summer, Bliss served on Auburn Athletics’ Advisory Task Force on Inclusion and Race Relations, working with other members of Auburn Athletics to ensure a safe space for critical conversations, providing holistic education on historic and current topics and generating sustainable action items that support meaningful change.

Bliss has also been named Second Team All-SEC and to the SEC All-Defensive Team, as voted on by the league’s head coaches and announced by the conference office announced Monday.

It marks the second time Bliss has been recognized by the league after also being named to the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2019. He is Auburn’s second shortstop to be named All-SEC in the last three full seasons.

A native of LaGrange, Georgia, Bliss finished the regular season as the only player in the conference to rank in the top five in average (.366), slugging (.664), runs (31), hits (48), doubles (nine), home runs (10), RBI (30) and total bases (87) during league games. He also ranked in the top five in the league overall in average (.362), slugging (.643), hits (75) and total bases (133).

Bliss collected multiple hits in a league-best 26 of 51 games during the regular season, including 16 of 30 games in SEC play. His .362 average and 14 home runs are the most by an Auburn shortstop in the same season since Doug Gilcrease hit .386 with 17 home runs in 1982.

Bliss has also been named a semifinalist for the the NCBWA Dick Howser Trophy.

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