By Wil Crews
Two former Auburn High School student-athletes, Ryan Watson and Marrel Parker, earned their degrees from Auburn University on Saturday when they walked across the stage in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Watson, a right-handed pitcher for the Auburn baseball team, graduated Auburn High in 2016 after leading Auburn to a AHSAA Class 7A state championship as a senior. In his final season at Auburn High, Watson posted a 5-1 record with a 1.98 ERA in 60 innings and struck out 62 batters with only 22 walks. He was selected in the 39th round of the MLB draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2016 MLB draft, but chose to come to Auburn University instead.
Watson made 58 appearances for the Tigers during his time at Auburn. In 2017, he was Auburn’s most-used freshman arm and posted a 1-1 record with a 5.17 ERA. Watson’s most prevalent year for the Tigers came as a junior in 2019. The hard-throwing righty set a career high with 24 appearances and posted a 1-1 record with a 4.87 ERA. He turned in career highs in innings (40.2) and strikeouts (41).
Watson played a prominent role in the Tigers’ run to the College World Series that season, pitching 2.2 innings and matching a career high with five strikeouts in the regional opener versus Coastal Carolina, 2.2 scoreless innings in the middle game of the Chapel Hill Super Regional and 1.2 scoreless innings with a pair of strikeouts in the College World Series versus Louisville.
Unfortunately, Watson’s senior season was cut short this year due to COVID-19. However, he did make five appearances, finishing with a 1.23 ERA. Watson decided to sign a professional free agent contract with the Baltimore Orioles in June. Watson finished his Auburn playing career with a 2-2 record and 4.67 ERA while striking out 79 batters and issuing 35 walks in 90.2 innings pitched.
“The entire Auburn Family joins in celebrating the career of Ryan Watson and his opportunity with the Baltimore Orioles,” Head Coach Butch Thompson said in June. “We thank Ryan for staying home to accomplish his goals of playing for Auburn and pursuing his degree before taking this next step into professional baseball.”
Parker, a track and field athlete in high school, also helped lead Auburn High to an AHSAA Class 7A state championship before he took an indirect path to Auburn University. According to auburntigers.com, Parker first ran at Meridian Community College, where he was a JUCO All-American and finished seventh at the Indoor Nationals prior to Auburn. His lone season at Auburn was 2019 due to the 2020 season being cancelled because of COVID-19. Parker sprinted and long jumped in eleven meets for the Tigers that season – six outdoor and five indoor meets. For outdoor, he ran a 10.81 in the 100 meter at the War Eagle Invitational, good enough to finish 14th overall. He also won the War Eagle Invitational long jump with a season-best leap of 7.40 meters. Parker finished 14th at the SEC Outdoors with a long jump of 7.26 meters. For indoor, Parker finished second in the long jump at the UAB Blazer Invitational, and 16th in the 60 meter. He had an indoor season-beast 60 meter and long jump at the Vanderbilt Invitational and finished 24th at the SEC Indoors in the long jump.
In total, 24 student athletes graduated from Auburn University on Saturday. They are the following. Baseball: Ryan Watson; Men’s Basketball: Jamal Johnson, Brendan Knox; Equestrian: Terri-June Granger; Football: Nick Brahms, K.J. Britt, Big Kat Bryant, Anders Carlson, Tanner Dean, Tashawn Manning, Jordyn Peters, Bill Taylor and Austin Troxell; Softball: Tannon Snow; Men’s Swimming & Diving: Santiago Grassi; Women’s Swimming & Diving: Jaden Bellina, Annie Boone, Siera Jett and Jessica Merritt; Men’s Tennis: Michael Durham; Men’s Track & Field: Marrel Parker; Women’s Track & Field: Natosha Jordan and Emily Mills; Volleyball: Lauren Dorrell.