UConn’s 2022 season starts against an old friend (or foe, depending on who you ask). UConn and USF shared a conference for seven years as members of the American Athletic Conference, a quality baseball conference, before the Huskies bolted to the new version of the Big East. And as conferences change, some priorities change — UConn expects to win the conference this year, same as last year — but some remain the same.
“Our expectations are the same as every year,” head coach Jim Penders said. “The expectation is to get to [NCAA] tournament and to win the national championship, that’s where we have been for a while now. We’re in a position now where we’re not afraid to talk about Omaha, and it should be welcomed.”
The road to reach this lofty goal starts this weekend in Tampa, Florida. UConn will take part in the USF Baseball Invitational with the hosts, Charlotte and Louisville. We won’t learn everything we need to know about this UConn team this weekend, but it’ll be nice to see the team back in action.
When: Friday, February 18, 6 p.m. vs. USF
Saturday, February 19, noon vs. Charlotte
Sunday, February 20 9 a.m. vs. Louisville
Where: Tampa, Florida
Radio: UConn Sports Network, 91.7 FM
RHP Austin Peterson (UConn) vs, RHP Jack Jasiak (USF)
RHP Pat Gallagher (UConn) vs. TBD
RHP Enzo Stefanoni vs. TBD
What to watch for
- UConn has a plethora of options in the field, with some versatile players that give them leeway to mess with the lineup. Seton Hall transfer Casey Dana will start the season in right field, but can transition back to the infield, where he played for most of his career. David Smith, a La Salle transfer, can play at second base, where he would shift Christian Fedko to the DH, or in the outfield, moving one of Erik Stock, or more likely, Kevin Ferrer to the DH spot.
- Newcomer Matt Donlan at catcher has “one of the best arms” Jim Penders has ever seen come through Storrs, the head coach said preseason. For a program that has seen the likes of Max McDowell and Patrick Winkel come through Storrs, that’s some seriously high praise. We’ll get our first opportunity to see him behind the plate on Friday.
- All eyes will be on first baseman Ben Huber, who makes his debut in a UConn uniform this week. The transfer from Limestone College in Division II was playing at a level above his competition in 2020, and his easy swing and light power tower got him noticed by UConn. Fair or not, Huber will be compared to UConn’s first base phenom of 2021, Reggie Crawford, who suffered an elbow injury this fall that will see him miss the entire 2022 season.
- Fourth year junior Austin Peterson and third year sophomore Pat Gallagher are familiar to UConn fans, weekend starters for the majority of the 2021 season, but Sunday’s starter is not. Enzo Stefanoni will occupy that spot to begin 2022, a Connecticut native who pitched for Harvard for three years with a career 3.53 ERA and 7.10 strikeouts per nine innings.