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Arizona softball: Reyna Carranco has become the Wildcats’ silent stud

One of Arizona’s lesser-known freshmen is starting to turn some heads

Reyna Carranco reaches second base
Jason Bartel

Not only are the Arizona Wildcats one of the best teams in the country this year, they’re doing it with a lot of inexperienced players in the lineup.

Three freshmen came into this season either making a national team or getting a chance to try out for one. Catcher Dejah Mulipola and first baseman Jessie Harper were named to the USA Junior Women’s National Team, while redshirt freshman Alyssa Palomino was at the Women’s National Team camp along with Danielle O’Toole.

All three of them are in the lineup, but the freshman that’s really starting to get things going is second baseman Reyna Carranco.

This past weekend against Oregon, Carranco went 5-for-9 at the plate, scored two runs, drove in two runs, and walked once. In Saturday’s game, she was 3-for-4 including two huge hits in the late innings to give Arizona the 10-7 win.

“I think I just wanted to hit the ball hard,” she said of those two late hits against the Ducks. “I slapped the previous two at bats so I just wanted to hit the ball hard.”

“I didn’t think I’d come up in these exact spots, but I knew I’d be in some kind of situations like these,” Carranco continued. “I’m just happy to do what I did.”

“I think it just shows that we’re good from one through nine,” senior Katiyana Mauga added about the team’s eight-hole hitter getting big hits in a game like that. “That just shows how great of a team we are. If you have everyone working and everyone on their game or coming in clutch, I think it’s just great to have everyone working.”

Carranco’s numbers this past weekend are just the latest example of marked improvement by the young second baseman. On March 18th, her season batting average was down to as low as .143. But just a month and five days later, she was all the way up to .306.

“I think I just keep my head down and keep grinding,” she explained. “Even through the hard times I just keep doing what I know how to do and hopefully it’ll turn my way.”

“She’s kind of the silent stud,” head coach Mike Candrea added about her improvement. “She sits down in that eight spot and she keeps doing it and doing it and doing it.”

“She’s gotten better during conference, so I’m very excited about the production that she’s getting down there,” Candrea continued. “Reyna’s got a really good eye, a really good temperament for the game, and it’s almost like you gotta take her pulse to make sure she’s alive because she’s just really low key.”

One of the big reasons Carranco’s offensive numbers have ballooned the way they have was a massive paradigm shift with the best way to use her at the plate.

“She was getting thrown away a lot, so we finally decided to go with the short game,” Candrea explained. “Early in the year she did not short game at all, and I said ‘Probably the easiest thing for you is to go to the short game if they’re throwing you away’ and she’s really good at getting on top of the ball and bouncing it.”

It’s hard to remember that almost half of the Wildcats’ regular starting lineup is still just 40+ games into their college career, and they’ve only lost four times in that stretch.

“I love this team,” Carranco said. “This is like my favorite team ever, and we just have fun together. We’re just relaxed, know what to do, and we just have fun together.”

“I think it’s so fun,” Carranco added about being part of this particular group of freshmen. “It’s really fun because our freshmen group is really good. I look up to them too, but we just have fun playing together.”

“All these kids have matured over the year,” Candrea tacked on about his players’ growth. “And the more big games you play, the better decisions you make, and the more confident you are, and it’s just fun to see that this team has finally come to fruition.”

With Carranco and Harper, the right side of Arizona’s infield is an all-freshman look, and to make things even more complicated, Harper had never even played first base before this season. Luckily Carranco has been playing second base basically her whole life.

“It’s really cool to see how well she’s transitioning to that,” Carranco said of her teammate. “I really like playing next to her. Jessie’s the one that had to move, so I was like ‘Oohf’, but I think she did a good job at first because I think she knew how to transition. I think it was a good move for her.”

“She doesn’t get really excited,” Candrea added about Carranco at second. “She plays second base, which is one of the toughest positions to play in this game, and there’s so many responsibilities you have, and she’s always in the right place at the right time. She’s just got that knack and she keeps the game slow.”

“Her mentality being a flat-liner kinda helps her in big games, and that’s what happened as she got into conference.”

The games only get bigger from here, so if Arizona has someone that’s not flustered by that at an incredibly important position in the field and down in the lineup coming up with big hits, there’s no telling what this team is capable of.