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Super Regional Preview: UConn travels to No. 2 Stanford with a spot in the College World Series on the line

The Huskies have even loftier ambitions this year

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Time and TV

Saturday, 10:30 p.m. EDT (ESPNU)

Sunday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPNU)

Monday (if necessary), ESPN Networks

Where: Sunken Diamond, Stanford, California

Radio: Mixlr

Projected Starters:

RHP Pat Gallagher (10-3, 3.17 ERA)

RHP Austin Peterson (11-2, 3.30 ERA)

RHP Enzo Stefanoni (6-1, 3.20 ERA)

Odds to advance (via DraftKings):

UConn +240

Stanford -310

What to watch for:

Can UConn baseball continue to defy the odds?

The Huskies had everything to prove heading into the NCAA tournament, with its non-conference strength of schedule ranked No. 229 in the country, according to Warren Nolan. They had to win their way in through the Big East tournament, but once in the College Park Regional, UConn was able to advance against solid competition. Wake Forest and No. 15 Maryland were both top-10 RPI teams headed into the weekend and the Huskies sent them both packing to reach their first super in over a decade. No. 2 Stanford is a quality squad, ranked No. 3 in RPI with impressive stats on offense.

The Cardinal won both the Pac-12 regular season and tournament titles and have a 45-15 record. Slugger Carter Graham, with his .340 batting average and 22 home runs, has led the way, as one of four Stanford hitters to have reached the 15-home run plateau.

The Cardinal’s top starter, Alex Williams, has had an otherworldly season with a WHIP under 1.00 and a 2.35 ERA, good enough to win Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year and first team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.

Stanford, after dispatching Binghamton, fell to Texas State, forcing the hosts to advance through the loser’s bracket, taking a winner-take-all Game 7 against the Bobcats. The Cardinal dig the long ball, ranking No. 14 in the country with 105 homers in 2022.

UConn stepped up a level from Big East competition to prevail over at-large ACC and Big Ten teams Maryland and Wake Forest. This weekend, it will rachet up just a bit more, as the Huskies will face one of the premier programs in collegiate baseball, as this represents Stanford’s third straight Super Regional, while the Cardinal are vying for their 18th College World Series appearance.

Unfamiliar territory

UConn baseball is in only its second-ever Super Regional since the format was introduced in 1999, as the Huskies also advanced to the Columbia Super Regional in 2011 to face the eventual national champion, the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks.

UConn came closest to this point in 2019, when the Huskies were kicked to the loser’s bracket in the Oklahoma City Regional after falling to Nebraska and fought back to the final, taking No. 9 Oklahoma State to the brink but ultimately failing to beat them. UConn fell to Washington in a similar fashion in the Conway Regional final in 2018, but lost in the first game.

Casey Dana, Matt Donlan and Bryan Padilla had standout performances to make it happen, all three of them making the all-regional team. Padilla went 3-for-4 in both wins over Maryland and Donlan had two home runs and nine RBI in the opening round of the tournament. Dana went 6-for-19 with three doubles and three RBI.

Pitching swap

After a gutsy regional performance, throwing nearly 160 pitches, head coach Jim Penders will save Austin Peterson until the second game of the series, where it will either be all hands on deck with elimination at stake or a chance to put away the No. 2 seed in the tournament.

Pat Gallagher will face off against Stanford’s ace Williams on Saturday and if the series goes to a third game, Enzo Stefanoni will likely get the ball.