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Preview: UConn baseball vs. Pepperdine | 5 p.m. ET, WCC Network/MIXLR

UConn looks to extend their eight-game win streak on the first leg of their Golden State road trip

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

With just one loss in 10 to start the season, UConn (9-1) is seemingly off to a dream start to the 2022 season. Their run differential is soaring, their offense is riding high and their pitching has shut down every opponent they’ve faced. But the Huskies still have much to learn about their team in this young season. Their toughest opponent yet was Louisville in the middle of a down few years, along with Charlotte, their only loss this season.

Even in wins, the Huskies have made too many mistakes for head coach Jim Penders’ liking, especially in the field.

“We’re going to have to play a lot better, our concentration level has been poor at times,” head coach Jim Penders said after the Huskies’ first midweek game of the year against Hartford, a frigid affair that featured a handful of errors and mental mistakes in the 30-degree weather.

The Huskies certainly won’t have the cold to contend with this weekend in Malibu, playing in one of the most gorgeous settings for a baseball game in the world, but their competition will step in to challenge them, a cut above the teams they’ve faced in the past few weeks.

Pepperdine (8-4) is a historic program with over 27 NCAA tournament appearances and a College World Series victory to their name. In recent years with head coach Rick Hirtensteiner, the Waves have two conference championships, and are on a tear so far in 2022.

The Waves were picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the WCC this season, but look on pace to exceed those expectations. They swept UConn’s conference-mates Villanova to open the year, beat UCLA in a midweek game and swept perennial west coast power Cal State Fullerton in their latest weekend series.

How the red-hot Huskies match up with Pepperdine in their first series of their spring break road trip will give us a glimpse at the true quality of the UConn team.

When: Friday: 5 p.m. EST

Saturday: 4 p.m.

Sunday: 4 p.m.

Where: Eddy D. Field Stadium, Malibu, California

TV: WCC Network

Radio: MIXLR

Projected Starters:

RHP Austin Peterson (1-0, 1.53 ERA) vs. RHP Brandon Llewellyn (1-1. 2.04 ERA)

RHP Pat Gallagher (2-1, 1.80 ERA) vs. RHP Trevor Hinkel (1-0, 3.52 ERA)

RHP Enzo Stefanoni (2-0, 0.96 ERA) vs. RHP Dane Morrow (1-0, 6.14 ERA)

What to Watch For

  • Team captain Erik Stock is on an incredible heater to start the season, leading the Huskies in average (.475) and slugging (.650) with a hitting streak of 21 games dating back to the late 2021 season.
  • Likewise, UConn’s pitchers have been especially stingy in allowing runs, with a staff 1.58 ERA, the second best mark in the country. UConn’s relievers have had a good start to the season, but they’ve been aided greatly by their starters, who have all been able to go deep into games and make the bullpen’s lives easier.
  • Austin Peterson and Enzo Stefanoni have made for extremely impressive bookends to the UConn rotation this year. Peterson boasts a 1.53 and is second in the country with 33 strikeouts, while Stefanoni’s numbers are arguably more impressive — 0.96 ERA and is yet to record a single walk in 2022.
  • UConn’s impressive freshmen relievers will play a role too. Hector Alejandro, Braden Quinn and Brady Afthim all had standout performances in the midweek game against Hartford, and all three have yet to allow a single earned run. Ian Cooke has featured as a long relieve on the weekends and has been equally impressive, with a 1.17 ERA and 8 strikeouts to go with zero walks through 7/2 innings of work.
  • UConn’s pitchers will be challenged up and down the Pepperdine lineup, but John Peck, one of the WCC’s top prospects, will definitely expect to make a mark against a perennial NCAA tournament team. The sophomore shortstop is hitting .367 with a .673 slugging percentage, picking things up a notch after a freshman year where he started every game.