UConn baseball will spend the first seven weekends of the baseball season with non-conference series, including several trips to California and even to Hawaii, along with an old Big East rival a little bit closer to home.
The first of a few West Coast trips, UConn will play Cal Poly on Feb. 24 and two more against California on Feb. 25 and 26. Cal Poly finished 37-21 (22-8 Big West) but did not make the NCAA Tournament. These teams have faced off just once prior, in the 2020 MLB4 Tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona. Only one player (Taison Corio, Cal Poly) that played in the game remains with either program.
As for the Golden Bears, the Huskies have played them just twice before, each on a neutral site. The last time was in 2011 when Matt Barnes surrendered just one unearned run over 7 1/3 innings of work. Cal was 29-27 last year and 14-16 in PAC-12 play. The Golden Bears are looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019.
UConn will be headed to Boca Raton for the third time in program history on March 3-5, looking to avenge the series sweep to begin the 2015 season. The Huskies took two of three in 2006. The Owls have racked up the wins, with at least 30 victories in every full season since 2015, with five NCAA Tournament bids since 2013, but haven’t played in June since 2019.
Former Husky Jordan Tabakman has gone south and is entering his first season as Florida Atlantic’s pitching coach after three seasons at Fairfield and one at Albany. The Owls were 35-23 (19-11 Conference USA) in 2022, going 1-2 in the conference tournament.
Hawaii is this year’s Spring Break destination, as the Huskies and Rainbow Warriors will play four games from March 10-13. This is the first time the teams will face off against one another. Since UConn is traveling to Hawaii, these games will not count toward their 56-game total, enabling the Huskies to play up to 60 regular season games.
Rich Hill is in his second season as coach after finishing 28-24, including 19-11 in Big West games, which was good for third in the conference. Hawaii hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2010, when it was a member of the WAC. The Rainbow Warriors made the Tempe Regional final in 2010 and the 2007 Corvallis Regional final.
The Huskies get it started against the Buckeyes on Feb. 17-20 with a four-game set across three cities on the Gulf Coast of Florida. UConn is 4-8 against the OSU all-time and these games renew a series that has been dormant since 2014. These two programs had made a habit of playing one-off games in the late 2000s and early 2010s, facing off every year but one between 2007-2014. This is the first time they will play a full series.
Ohio State finished with a 21-30 record in 2022, including 8-14 in the Big Ten, which was 11th out of 14 in the league standings. Bill Mosiello, who spent eight years as the hitting coach at TCU, is starting his first season at the helm of the Buckeyes in 2023.
A former Big East rivalry will be renewed as UConn has its second series against Big Ten opposition from March 24-26. The Scarlet Knights haven’t come to Connecticut since a two-game set in 2014, which the teams split. UConn is 31-34 against Rutgers all-time, but is 6-4 in its last 10 games, including a 2-1 win in the 2013 Big East Tournament semifinals on the back of a sparkling start from the aforementioned Tabakman.
Rutgers hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2007, bottoming out at the end of Joe Litterio era, who took over for longtime coach Fred Hill. Steve Owens, the former head coach at Bryant, has the Scarlet Knights on the upswing, culminating in a 44-15 season in 2022, including a 17-7 Big Ten record. Rutgers was eliminated in the Big Ten Tournament final.
San Diego State
Spring Break will close with a four-game set against San Diego State from March 16-19. UConn has played the Aztecs just once before, the same weekend it last played Cal in 2011. It was a 9-3 victory that the Huskies broke out with a six-run eighth as part of the Tony Gwynn Classic.
San Diego State made five NCAA Tournaments in six seasons between 2013-2018 and followed it up with three additional full winning seasons, but the 2022 Aztecs finished 18-38, including 10-20 in Mountain West contests. Two of those bids came while Tony Gwynn was at the helm before his death in 2014.
UConn closes out the non-conference season with a visit from UMBC. The Retrievers hosted the Huskies once before for the teams’ only previous meeting, a 10-8 UConn win in 1997. UMBC has three NCAA Tournament appearances under its belt, the most recent of which was in 2017 after winning the America East Tournament. The Retrievers were in the Winston-Salem Regional, losing both games.
The Retrievers were 23-32 in 2022. This includes a 1-2 record in the America East Tournament, in which they were the 5-seed. They have had just one 30-win season since 2003 and just two winning seasons in that span.
Big East Series
Butler will come to UConn for the first time in program history May 12-14 for a three-game set that will be the penultimate of the regular season. The Huskies and Bulldogs have matched up just six times prior, as the teams’ 2021 series was wiped out due to COVID-19 within UConn’s program. The Storrs nine are 6-0, with a sweep in 2022 coupled with a trio of wins over Spring Break 2004.
The Bulldogs were just 4-16-1 in Big East play in 2022 as part of a 20-35-1 season. After two 30-win campaigns to start the now-retired Dave Schrage’s tenure and a 26-26 year in 2019, Butler has had two straight losing seasons and was selected eighth in the preseason Big East poll.
The top two teams in the conference will close out the regular season with a big series in Omaha, as the Bluejays will host UConn May 18-20. The Huskies were unable to face off against Creighton in 2021 because of its COVID-19 outbreak, but did the teams played for the first time at the Big East Tournament, a game that UConn won and was known for Ben Casparius shushing the dugout.
On top of that, the Bluejays were swept at Elliot Ballpark on Mother’s Day Weekend in 2022 and suffered another defeat three weeks later in the Big East Tournament.
Despite being at the home of the College World Series, Creighton has made it back to Omaha just once, doing so in 1991, but after winning both Big East regular season and tournament championships, it took eventual national runner-up Michigan to a winner-take-all Game 7 in the Corvallis Regional in 2019. The Bluejays have just one losing season since joining the Big East and have missed the Big East Tournament just once.
The Hoyas made life difficult for UConn in 2022, sweeping the Huskies in Maryland the final weekend of the regular season. Penders’ nine will look to return the favor when the series shifts to Connecticut April 21-23 for the team’s Big East home opener. UConn is 50-21 all-time against Georgetown since the schools first met in 1985. The sweep the Huskies suffered in 2022 was the first for Georgetown since 1995, while UConn has gone undefeated in a weekend nine times.
Though baseball is one of the university’s oldest sports, success has been limited. The Hoyas are 866-1,006-7 all-time and while they were one of college baseball’s big surprises last season at 32-24 (11-10 Big East), it was the program’s first winning season since 1986 and its first-ever 30-win campaign. This has precluded the program from ever making the NCAA Tournament.
UConn begins the Big East slate with an Easter weekend road trip to St. John’s and an unconventional schedule. The series will open on Thursday night with a Saturday doubleheader to follow university policies surrounding Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
A foe dating back to before the old Big East, the Huskies have won 64 of the 113 all-time meetings between the two schools. This includes five straight and eight of the 10 matchups since the new Big East formed, as UConn swept the Red Storm last year by a combined 35-7. The Huskies had two straight shutouts to close out the series.
St. John’s was 22-32-1 in 2022, including a 7-12-1 Big East record. Ed Blankmeyer departed the school in advance of the 2020 season after 24 years. He led the Red Storm to eight 40-win seasons and had a losing record just one time. Mike Hampton was hired to replace him and he hasn’t been able to sustain the magic with just a 46-59-1 record.
UConn is the home team on Commencement weekend, welcoming in Seton Hall for a trio of games. The two schools played each other for the first time in 1919, which was a Seton Hall win, but they didn’t start playing regularly until 1983. The Pirates have a 47-44 edge in the all-time series, but the Huskies have taken eight-straight off Seton Hall and have fallen just twice in the last 14 meetings.
A Sheppard has been coaching in South Orange since 1973, which has included two College World Series appearances and 11 Regional appearances by the elder, but while Rob Sheppard has had a winning record since taking over for his father in 2004, just one NCAA Tournament berth has come with it, back in 2011.
The Pirates were just 18-35 last season, the program’s worst record since 2010, but this included a 1-18 start against a brutal schedule that included series at North Carolina, Florida and Oklahoma State.
The Huskies are going to Villanova from April 28-30 for the second time since joining the new Big East. The teams first faced off in 1947 and UConn is 41-26 all time, including 4-2 the past two seasons. The Wildcats haven’t taken a series off the Huskies since 2004 when they swept UConn at home.
Villanova was 19-29-1 in 2022, including an 8-12 conference record. The program has had just one winning season since 2013 and hasn’t made the Big East Tournament since 2008. Prior to the realignment in 2014, it was an eight-team format.
Xavier will host UConn from April 14-16 in a rematch of 2022 Big East Tournament final, which the Huskies won by a score of 7-2. The two schools had played only once prior to becoming conference mates, in 2012, but UConn has owned the all-time series by a 7-2 margin. Four of these matchups have come in the Big East Tournament, including the 2021 and 2022 finals.
Xavier won Big East Tournament titles in 2016 and 2017 under Scott Googins, who left after 2017 to coach Cincinnati, and have made the tournament final in each of the past three years under Billy O’Conner, but have been unable to break through, as Creighton won the tournament in 2019.