The weather is hot, and so is Winthrop baseball.
Winthrop (31-21, 18-9 Big South) took 2-of-3from USC Upstate in the final series of the regular season, with a 6-5 victory Friday and 9-1 decision Saturday giving the Eagles their sixth straight Big South series win.
Winthrop recorded its second 30-win season in the last three and earned the third seed in the Big South Championship, which begins Tuesday at Segra Stadium in Fayetteville, N.C. Winthrop will face the best remaining seed from Tuesday’s single elimination round, in which sixth-seeded High Point plays ninth-seeded UNC Asheville, and seventh-seeded Charleston Southern takes on eighth-seeded USC Upstate. The first game for the Eagles takes place Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.
The Eagles produced a four-run eighth in the Friday result, erasing a 4-2 deficit for the victory. Matthew Mulkey doubled home Spencer Yankle to start the rally, then scored on a Jake Sullivan single just after Grant English headed home on a passed ball. A Tyler Baker knock plated Sullivan to finish the Winthrop scoring.
Dalton Whitaker got the win, throwing an inning in which he held the Spartans at bay before Colten Rendon took over. Rendon fired two one-hit innings and fanned four to collect his eighth save. The junior stopper was rewarded with his third Big South Reliever of the Week honor in a row Sunday afternoon.
Winthrop then pounded Upstate Saturday afternoon, with Scout McFalls, Alex Raines, Yankle, and English tallying eight of their club’s 10 hits. Hunter Lipscomb added a two-run blast and a sacrifice fly on the day. Thad Harris scattered six hits and a run through 5.1 innings, getting the victory on the mound. Jason Crumley and Braxton Foley closed it out, surrendering just two hits over the final 3.2 frames.
Rendon was one of three Eagles to be named first team All-Big South on Monday, along with senior outfielder Hunter Lipscomb and senior starting pitcher Nate Pawelczyk. Yankle was named to the second team, and Lipscomb also earned All-Conference academic honors.
Former Rock Hill High pitcher and Charleston Southern freshman R.J. Petit was named first team All-Conference as a relief pitcher, and former Clover standout Jimmy Marcelli, now an infielder at Presbyterian, was named honorable mention.
Academic accolades continue
With the spring semester having drawn to a close, the time has arrived in which academic honors are bestowed.
The first such honor came Tuesday afternoon, in which Winthrop announced that its student-athletes posted a 3.25 GPA for the spring semester. That average was the second-highest total in the athletic department’s history.
“Our student-athletes continue to impress every year through their academic performance,” said Dr. Ken Halpin, Winthrop vice president for intercollegiate athletics in a release announcing the achievement. “They are a testament that you do not have to sacrifice academic excellence to attain athletic excellence.”
Women’s cross country paced all athletic teams with a 3.76 average, while men’s tennis topped the male teams with a 3.57 GPA.
The good news from the classroom continued Friday, as the Big South Conference announced baseball’s Mattison Pike and softball’s Blake Wallert as recipients of the George A. Christenberry Award for Academic Excellence. Pike, a Beaufort native, played four years on the Eagle baseball team. Wallert, from Clover, started 152 of the 167 games in which she appeared during her career on the diamond, while collecting a career-high .311 batting average in her senior season.
Wallert, an exercise science major, was also one of five Winthrop graduates presented with the President’s Award for Academic Excellence at Commencement earlier in May. She will head to the University of Florida, where she will be part of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.
“The Christenberry Award is the highest academic honor awarded to Big South student-athletes,” said Big South Conference Commissioner Kyle B. Kallander. “It is incredible to think that a record 10 individuals completed their undergraduate academic career with perfect GPAs, especially with the demands placed on them as student-athletes.”
Thorn leaps his way to the postseason
Junior long jumper Colby Thorn has qualified for the 2019 NCAA East Preliminaries. The event will be held Thursday-Saturday on the campus of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla.
Thorn, the Big South Conference champion in the discipline with a leap of 7.45 meters, earned the trip to Jacksonville with a 7.48-meter effort in the Winthrop/adidas Invitational in late March.
The long jump event will be contested beginning at 3:30 Thursday afternoon. Should Thorn finish among the top 12 in the event, he will advance to the NCAA Championships. The NCAA Championships will take place June 5-8 at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas.