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The UConn Fast Break - 6/10/2022
New heights for the baseball squad, while basketball begins summer work.
Welcome to this week’s Fast Break, and thank you for being a subscriber. Baseball keeps on rolling, on to the Super Regionals!
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Men’s and women’s basketball return to campus
Though the calendar has only flipped to June, a big moment has arrived for hoops. Summer classes at UConn have started and players are returning for workouts. While there has been a lot of turnover on the men’s side, the women’s team is bringing back many key players, though Evina Westbrook, Christyn Williams, and Olivia Nelson-Ododa did graduate.
It’s a season of promise for both teams. The men look to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight time and potentially win Dan Hurley’s first tourney game as UConn’s head coach, while Geno Auriemma and the women have an 11th national championship on their mind after last year’s national championship game defeat.
The season is just getting ramped up, but it’s exciting to know basketball is just around the corner!
How transfers helped UConn make a Super Regional - Most of the key players in the Huskies’ lineup have played somewhere else.
Zach Bushling ready to contribute wherever necessary - Speaking of transfers, junior college transfer Zach Bushling has bounced around the lineup, filling many different roles.
How UConn made a Super Regional - The Huskies were a 3-seed due to a weak schedule and slow finish to the regular season. However, playing their toughest opponents all year, Jim Penders’ team finished 3-1 and is two wins away from Omaha.
Huskies win College Park Regional - After topping Wake Forest, UConn played No. 15 Maryland thrice, first sending the Terrapins to an elimination game, then beating the hosts in a winner-take-all Game 7, but UConn did lose the first game of the regional final.
Huskies unlikely to make more additions - According to Geno Auriemma, UConn’s roster is most likely complete.
Shorthanded summer workouts - The Huskies just have “five and a half” players at the beginning of summer workouts.
UConn to face off with Maryland - Auriemma and the Huskies will travel to College Park on Dec. 11 as part of a home-and-home series.
Ice Brady named to U-18 national team - The 12-player squad will compete in the FIBA U-18 Women’s Americas Championship in Buenos Aires next week.
Dayne Shor transfers from Alabama - After spending just spring practice with the Crimson Tide, the offensive lineman will come north.
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Matt Donlan got the offense rolling early against No. 15 Maryland on Monday in the winner-take-all Game 7 of the College Park Regional with this grand slam. The Huskies would eventually move to Super Regional play with an 11-8 victory over the Terrapins.
The Huskies last made a Super Regional 11 years ago, when they traveled to the Columbia Super Regional to face No. 4 South Carolina. The score was 3-2 in favor of the Gamecocks in the eighth inning of Game 2, with UConn facing elimination. South Carolina had runners on first and second with two outs, when center fielder George Springer made one of the best catches in recent program history.
UConn, Great Pic
UConn baseball had quite the celebration following the final out of the College Park Regional. Check out these shots on the team’s Twitter account.
Few have done more with less than Jim Penders. When he took over as head coach for the 2004 season, the team hadn’t made an NCAA Tournament in a decade despite being solid, with just four losing seasons in over 20 years under Andy Baylock. However, they were a solid Northeast power and little more, with a lack of facilities.
J.O. Christian Field, which had hosted the program since the 1960s, was four sets of bleachers surrounding a baseball field. Some of the players Penders was recruiting, particularly those from the south and west, had nicer facilities in high school.
Despite scarce resources, Penders built a nationally relevant program. It took him until 2010 to return to the NCAA Tournament, hosting the Norwich Regional as a 2-seed, despite no site conflicts at Florida State, the nationally-unseeded 1-seed in the Regional, as only the top eight teams were seeded prior to 2018.
From then on, the Huskies have missed the tournament just four times and were one of the first four teams left home in 2017, amounting to eight bids and two Super Regional appearances across 12 tournaments, converting at a much higher clip than any Northeast team.
“I think he's the best coach ever to coach at Connecticut in any sport,” UConn women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma said on Thursday at a media availability during his team’s summer workouts.
That’s high praise, and it’s completely justified. After regular-season conference championships, conference tournament titles, NCAA Tournament bids, and now two Super Regional appearances, the last thing on Penders’ list to check off is a trip to Omaha and the College World Series, which UConn last made in 1979.
The playing field at Elliot Ballpark will likely bear his name someday and he deserves as much shine as he can get. He’s done it the right way and has a coaching staff that has bought in, and so has team after team. This weekend, we will find out whether his illustrious resume will get just a little more impressive.
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