UConn baseball relied heavily on veterans in 2022 en route to its first Super Regional appearance in 11 years. The starting nine regularly featured graduate students Casey Dana and Ben Huber, seniors Zach Bushling and Erik Stock, and fourth-year juniors TC Simmons and Matt Donlan.
On the mound, Friday starter Austin Peterson was pitching in his senior season, while Sunday guy Enzo Stefanoni was also a graduate student. Seniors Justin Willis and Devin Kirby also occupied the ninth and eighth inning roles, respectively.
Despite all that experience leaving, it’s possible for most of the team to return in 2023.
Only five of the 42 players listed on UConn’s website have exhausted their collegiate eligibility and cannot return to Storrs: Bushling, Cole Chudoba, Dana, Christian Fedko, and Stock.
Other than that, the rest of the roster is eligible to come back and play another season for the Huskies.
Some will not, as Stefanoni seems unlikely to return due to a job offer, according to Hearst’s Dave Borges, while left-handed reliever Brendan O’Donnell departed for Houston in the transfer portal. Kevin Ferrer is in the portal as well, but expressed his desire to return to The Day’s Gavin Keefe.
The team surely will be missing some important pieces, including all-conference performers in Donlan and Stock, in addition to the entirety of its weekend rotation, but plenty of players have the potential to return.
More than 52 percent of the team’s at-bats have eligibility remaining and were not drafted, including Huber, Simmons, and David Smith, each of whom played in all 66 games in 2022, as well as an everyday player in shortstop Bryan Padilla. Korey Morton, who missed a decent chunk of the season with an injury but hit more than .400 in 124 at-bats, also will return to the fold.
The starting pitching is more complicated. Ian Cooke, who made six starts as a true freshman, is one of five pitchers that recorded 20 or more innings that will return. Overall, just 40 percent of the team’s innings pitched can come back for another year, including none of the team’s weekend starters.
Cooke looks primed to enter the weekend rotation, while Jack Sullivan and Brady Afthim, each of whom pitched well in a bullpen role as true freshmen, may take a step forward after growing another year older. In the back end of the bullpen, Willis and Kirby each can return, as will rising junior Garrett Coe, who led the team’s relievers in innings.
After transfers proved so important to the 2022 Huskies, it’s possible for head coach Jim Penders to bring more into the fold for next year, though none have announced their commitment publicly.
There will be a solid returning core, particularly at the plate, but to return to the NCAA Tournament and reprise its appearance in Super Regionals, underclassmen will need to fill increased roles.