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The UConn Fast Break - 4/24/2023
Let's talk about softball.
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UConn softball is on a roll
UConn softball has won 14 of its last 15 games heading into the final stretch of the regular season, holding a 31-11 record, including 18-3 in Big East play to sit atop the conference standings.
Laura Valentino’s team is ranked 62nd in the RPI, slightly ahead of Villanova (No. 73) for the conference’s lead in that metric as of the completion of play on April 23. The rest of the conference ain’t so great.
The Huskies’ weak strength of schedule, stemming from the litany of sub-175 RPI teams in the Big East, likely precludes them from earning an at-large bid to the 64-team NCAA Tournament.
UConn hasn’t made the tourney since 2001 after making seven out of eight between 1989-1996. In Valentino’s first two full seasons at the helm, the Huskies made the Big East Tournament final but lost to Villanova both times.
UConn is in the top 50 nationally with a .302 average and the top 100 with 4.97 runs per game, led by Lexi Hastings (.368/.489/.588) and Aziah James (.349/.437/.442), each of whom hit over .345. They’re two of four regulars hitting over .330.
On the mound, Hope Jenkins and Payton Kinney have given their team a chance to win each time they’ve gone out. Jenkins has a 3.45 ERA and a .206 batting average against over 112 1/3 innings, while Kinney’s numbers are even better, with a 2.87 ERA, 93 strikeouts, and .167 batting average against in 84 2/3 frames of work. Meghan O’Neil has eight saves, as well.
The Huskies have won 12 in a row after sweeping Creighton this past weekend.
Nahiem Alleyne to St. Johns – The experienced guard is staying in UConn’s conference.
Andre Jackson declares for NBA draft – The Huskies’ dynamic star has a chance to catch on at the next level.
Tristen Newton heading to NBA Draft – Like Jackson, Newton is “testing the waters.”
Joey Calcaterra’s fire season ($) – The San Diego transfer was not the most heralded recruit around, but he made a difference.
Fast Break Pod – A conversation around UConn’s efforts in the NIL space.
Karaban played a key role as a freshman ($) – Alex Karaban had a remarkable freshman season.
Mühl sisters will face off – UConn will host Ball State on Dec. 6, where NIka Mühl will face younger sister Hana Mühl.
Chasing Perfection – All the latest off-season news.
UConn’s season statistics ($) – A breakdown of key stats from the year that was.
Mailbag ($) – Answering reader questions!
UConn takes series against Xavier – The Huskies went two of three to win the series.
Midweek Struggles – A rough loss to Northeastern.
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In the fourth inning of Tuesday’s battle between St. Louis and Arizona, pitcher Jordan Montgomery spiked this offspeed pitch, bouncing it before home plate.
Former UConn shortstop Nick Ahmed displayed some exceptional bat control, as he went down to smack it for a two-RBI double.
In his third NBA season, Kemba Walker brought the Charlotte Bobcats to the postseason, making his playoff debut on April 20, 2014, against the Miami Heat and their big three: LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade.
Walker led Charlotte, scoring 20 points with six assists and five rebounds. The series didn’t go their way, but it was a big step for the third-year pro and a rebuilding team.
In Game 4, Walker dropped 29 points. Here are the highlights.
UConn, Great Pic
Softball pics are from the series against Butler last weekend. Baseball pics from multiple games against Boston College and Georgetown.
All of these were snapped by Ian Bethune.
Both Baseball America and D1Baseball have UConn hosting an NCAA Tournament regional in their latest NCAA Tournament projections.
Since the Super Regional round was added in 1999 and the tournament expanded to 64 teams, just one team from the Northeast has earned a 1-seed, as Rutgers hosted the Montclair Regional in 2000. Ten years later, the tournament committee elected to have Florida State—despite more than adequate facilities that have helped the Seminoles host 35 NCAA Tournaments since Dick Howser Stadium opened in 1982— controversially be a traveling 1-seed to UConn, which hosted the Norwich Regional.
Other than that, there hasn’t been an NCAA Tournament game played in this part of the country since 1991, when the Northeast Regional was held in Orono, Maine, though the top two seeds were Clemson and Mississippi State. UConn was one of the final teams left out of the hosting discussion in 2018, but there haven’t been any other programs seriously considered in recent years.
The Huskies are at No. 14 in the RPI as of the conclusion of play on April 23 and have a winning record against the top 50 and top 100 in the RPI, as well as 14 road wins, which is three off the pace set by Boston College, Eastern Illinois, and Rider. This would make for an easy decision to grant UConn a national seed if the committee was selecting the field today, but Jim Penders’ squad faces an uphill battle to holding onto that spot over the next six weeks.
There are four regular-season weekends remaining before the Big East Tournament. UConn will face No. 265 Villanova, No. 168 Seton Hall, No. 231 Butler, and No. 93 Creighton in three-game series. This is in addition to midweek games against No. 248 Yale, No. 293 Long Island, No. 168 Hofstra, and No. 165 Rhode Island.
More than a couple of losses over this 16-game stretch outside of Creighton could prove disastrous to the RPI.
Regardless, without a complete collapse before Memorial Day, UConn will be playing in June for the fifth straight time, which is a tremendous achievement.
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