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Big East Tournament Preview: UConn fighting to keep NCAA tournament hopes alive

It’s simple for the Huskies: Win and they’re in.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

When:

Thursday, 10:30 a.m. vs. Georgetown

Where: Prasco Park, Mason, Ohio

TV: FloSports

Radio: Mixlr

Warren Nolan RPI

No. 49 UConn vs. No. 126 Georgetown


UConn baseball heads to Ohio this weekend for the Big East conference tournament with revenge on the mind.

Not even a week prior, the Huskies had their Big East regular-season guard of honor spoiled by a resurgent Georgetown team that not only served them a series defeat for the first time this year, but swept the Huskies for the first time since March 15 against Texas Tech.

UConn’s chances of qualifying for the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid dropped precipitously, and the Huskies are now faced with a challenge: win the Big East tournament or potentially miss out on the postseason for the first time in five years.

It’s a double-elimination tournament featuring UConn, Georgetown, Creighton, and Xavier, the four top teams in the conference standings. The Huskies will play the squad with the same result as them in Creighton vs. Xavier on Friday, with a spot in the championship game on the line if they win, or with their backs against the wall if they lose. UConn would need to lose twice to be eliminated from the tournament.

Standing in their way in game one is the same team that kicked them to the curb last weekend: Georgetown.

The Hoyas dominated UConn in the first game of the series last weekend, then came up in the clutch with walk-off wins in the final two games to take the sweep. They knocked around the steady UConn pitching staff — Brendan O’Donnell, who recorded just two outs over the three games — was the only arm who escaped without allowing an earned run.

That means getting past Ethan Stern, the Georgetown second baseman who landed a spot on the Big East all-conference first team and earned every bit of it last weekend with a 6-for-11 series against the Huskies, and Jake Hyde, the sophomore outfielder who is second on the team with 18 home runs.

Get past the Hoyas, and either Xavier or Creighton stand in their way.

Like UConn might do with Austin Peterson, the Bluejays could hold their ace Dylan Tebrake, recently named the Big East pitcher of the year, back for their second game of the tournament where they could be up for elimination, or facing UConn, or both. Creighton enters the tournament on a hot streak, sweeping Villanova in its final weekend series and ending the season on a five-game winning streak.

Xavier’s unorthodox approach to the pitching staff could work out well in the tournament. In a postseason where pitching depth is important, the Musketeers have 12 pitchers who have made multiple starts in 2022 and nine who have pitched north of 30 innings.

First baseman Luke Franzoni was a force when UConn faced Xavier in April. He ended the season atop the conference with 24 home runs, 62 RBI and was the Big East co-player of the year.

UConn is going to need the big names to come up clutch. Erik Stock and Casey Dana combined to hit just 8 for 28 against Georgetown after leading the Huskies in hits and home runs, respectively. Likewise, Austin Peterson will need to shake off his poor start where he allowed 10 earned runs, his worst mark of the season.

The Huskies could save Peterson for the potential knockout game or elimination game on Friday and throw Pat Gallagher tomorrow. That would mean Enzo Stefanoni and one of Ian Cooke or Cole Chudoba would be waiting in the wings for starts on Saturday and Sunday, if necessary.