When the NBA’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus on March 11 just minutes before the Utah Jazz’s were set to tipoff against the Oklahoma Thunder, the sporting world, as we know it, came to a screeching halt.
The NBA and NHL quickly suspending their seasons taking a four-month hiatus, while the start of the Major League Baseball season was delayed until August.
The trickle down effect hit the Lowcountry as the South Carolina Stingrays hockey team and the Charleston Battery soccer club stopped playing just days after Gobert’s positive test.
The Charleston RiverDogs baseball team, which is the Single-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, never took the field in 2020 because of the global pandemic.
Those were not the only Charleston-area sporting events effected by the virus in 2020. The Cooper River Bridge Run, one of the most popular 10K races in the United States, and the Volvo Car Open, which has the longest tenure on the Women’s Tennis Association Tour, were both canceled.
Here’s hoping that we’ve put COVID-19 in our collective review mirrors and can get back to the ballparks, rinks and fields that we all love so much.
Cooper River Bridge Run
The largest participation sporting event in South Carolina is the Cooper River Bridge Run.
The race, which had more than 29,000 finishers in 2019, has been among the nation’s top-10 road races for the past 25 years. In 2019, The Bridge Run had more finishers than the Boston Marathon.
With a $10,000 first-place price for top men’s and women’s finishers, the race attracts a world class field, plus local jogging enthusiasts.
Silas Kipruto’s winning time of 27:58 in 2019 was the sixth fastest in the race’s 42-year history and just 18 seconds off the course record. Moncah Ngige took home top honors in the women’s division.
The college football season, like many sporting events, is still in question due to the pandemic.
After making the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in 2016, The Citadel and Charleston Southern are looking to return to the postseason. The Bulldogs begin the 2020 season ranked in the top-25 among FCS teams.
The NCAA will add three more bowl games to its schedule in 2020, and Myrtle Beach will be the site of one such postseason match-up.
Just up the road in Conway, Coastal Carolina made the jump from the FCS to the Sun Belt Conference and the Football Bowl Subdivision two years ago.
For the first time in program, College of Charleston had two players take the floor in the NBA in the same season.
Jarrell Brantley became the third player in Cougars history to be selected in the NBA Draft in 2019. Brantley made his NBA debut against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Former Cougar Joe Chealey returned for a second season with the Charlotte Hornets.
College of Charleston guard Grant Riller, who finished his career as the school’s second all-time leading scorer, is expected to be taken in October’s NBA draft.
Besides the Cougars, The Citadel and Charleston Southern also play at the NCAA Division I level. The Citadel’s “embrace the pace” high-scoring offense has been among the nation’s top-scoring teams over the past four seasons.
The annual ESPN-owned Charleston Classic will be played in downtown Charleston at TD Arena in late November.
The Citadel, College of Charleston and Charleston Southern all play highly competitive NCAA Division I schedules every year.
South Carolina, North Carolina, Clemson, Georgia and Coastal Carolina, which captured the 2016 College World Series title, have all made their way to the Lowcountry in recent seasons.
More than just a tennis tournament
While the Volvo Car Open on Daniel Island was canceled due to the virus, it usually draws an A-list field. The top names in women’s tennis such as Serena Williams and Venus Williams have played in the event along with rising stars Sloane Stephens and Naomi Osaka.
The Daniel Island facility hosted the made-for-TV Credit One Bank Tournament in June, which featured Stephens, Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
But the Volvo Open is more than just a tennis tournament, it’s an event. It’s a place to see and be seen. The food, the music, the shopping make the week-long tournament a must-attend experience even for the casual tennis fan.
The 2021 Volvo Car Open is set for early April.
Let’s go to The Joe
There’s nothing like sitting at the ballpark on a hot summer night, drinking a cold beer, and watching the sunset over the Ashley River at Riley Park.
Riley Park, known as The Joe to locals, is home of the Charleston RiverDogs, the Single-A South Atlantic Affiliate of the New York Yankees.
Before becoming one of the premier home run hitters in Major League Baseball, Yankees sluggers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez got their professional starts at The Joe.
The Joe also has one of the most eclectic food menus in minor league baseball, which includes such fan favorites as the Shrimp-N-Grit Corn Dog and the She-Crab Sweet Fry.
And be on the lookout for actor and Lowcountry resident Bill Murray, a co-owner and frequent patron at the games.
Fastest game on ice
Four former South Carolina Stingrays have gone onto hoist the NHL’s ultimate prize — the Stanley Cup.
The Stingrays, the affiliate for the NHL’s Washington Capitals, have won a league-record three ECHL titles and have been to the Kelly Cup finals in two of the past five years.
Ex-Stingrays Braden Holtby, who got his start in professional hockey with the Stingrays, had his name etched on the Stanley Cup in 2018. Goalie Philip Grubauer, forwards Nathan Walker and Rich Peverley have also won hockey’s top trophy and played for the Stingrays early in their professional careers.
Before having their season cut short by the virus, the Stingrays had the best record in the ECHL. New head coach Ryan Blair is hoping to build on the Stingrays success during the 2020-21 season.
The Beautiful Game
A new owner. A new city and a new stadium await Charleston Battery fans.
Rob Salvatore became the principal owner of the Charleston Battery this past October and moved the club from its Daniel Island home to Mount Pleasant’s Patriots Point.
The Battery has won four USL titles in its quarter-century of existence and its alumni of players include Major League Soccer’s Osvaldo Alonso, who led the Seattle Sounders to an MLS championship in 2016.
The club hosts the Carolina Challenge Cup, a week-long tournament that features teams from the MLS in late February. The Battery also routinely plays host to teams from Europe, including the occasional English Premier League side, during the summer months.