Winthrop will become just the third NCAA Division I school (Marquette University and Wagner College are the others) to sponsor an Esports program as a varsity sport, announcing late last week its plan to bring competitive video gaming to campus this coming fall.
“The popularity of esports is becoming more apparent, most recently with the world’s most recognizable esports gamer appearing in a Super Bowl 53 commercial alongside 100 of the NFL’s best players of all-time,” said Winthrop athletic director Ken Halpin in a release. “Including esports in that commercial was evidence of its booming popularity.”
Esports has its own collegiate governing body. The National Association of Collegiate Esports boasts on its website a grouping of over 125 member schools and 2,800 student-athletes. There is also an annual national convention.
Halpin also noted two significant benefits that fit the goals of the athletic department, along with those of the university.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Herald
“There are no necessary travel costs, since competition is online. There are no restrictions from competing for prize money – at least yet,” said Halpin. “Our players will have access to some of the biggest technology companies in the world, and it will be the first truly inclusive varsity program on campus, allowing men, women, and people with disabilities to compete side-by-side.”
A coach will soon be hired to helm the program in a soon-to-be-announced space on campus. The program will be ramped up during the spring and summer semesters.
Softball and lacrosse open their seasons
Two more Winthrop spring sports took to the grass for the first time in 2019.
Winthrop softball competed in the Bash in the ‘Boro at Georgia Southern’s campus in Statesboro, Ga. The Eagle women won three of the five contests over the weekend, taking 7-1 and 6-1 decisions over MEAC foe Savannah State, before downing the host Eagles, 10-7, Saturday evening.
Former Fort Mill High standout Bella Roy made her collegiate debut in the victory over Georgia Southern, tossing four innings of two-hit, shutout relief. Roy faced 14 batters, striking out 11. Junior outfielder Morgan Lowers also reached a milestone, recording her 150th collegiate base hit in the second victory over Savannah State.
The club returns to action this coming weekend, with another five-game slate in the Red & Black Showcase in Athens, Ga. The Eagles will face Buffalo and the host Bulldogs Friday afternoon, moving on to battle Nebraska-Omaha and Buffalo Saturday before again facing Georgia Sunday.
Winthrop lacrosse dropped two tough decisions to start the campaign, falling 13-12 at East Carolina and 12-4 in a home match with Davidson. Freshman Mia Creighton tallied five total goals, with four coming on the only four shots she took against East Carolina. Fellow first-years Lauren Morris and Lauren Asher contributed three total goals apiece.
The Eagles’ next match is scheduled for Friday against Liberty. Opening face-off from Eagle Field is slated for 3:00.
Romine earns Big South honor
Winthrop pitcher/designated player Keleigh Romine received Big South Conference Softball Player of the Week honors following a big weekend on the diamond for the Eagles.
Romine batted .571 (8-for-14) over the weekend, tying for a team-high in hits. Romine recorded three multi-hit games, knocking in four runs and drawing seven walks. The senior also turned in an outstanding effort on the mound against Savannah State, pitching five innings and allowing just three hits, while striking out six and walking two.
The award is Romine’s first, and the first for a Winthrop player since Ashley Westbrooks won nearly two years ago.
Tennis teams both on hot streaks
The men’s and women’s tennis teams continued their hot play of late, taking each of the four matches they contested during the week.
The women (4-2) started the week with a 5-2 result against Davidson on Wednesday, followed by a 6-1 finish against the College of Charleston on Friday.
The men (4-3, 1-0 Big South) took down Wofford, 6-1, Friday afternoon, before a dominant all-courts victory over Hampton Sunday to open league play.
The men resume play Friday afternoon, with a Big South match at USC Upstate. The women’s team travels to Wake Forest for a noon contest Saturday.