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Arizona CF Ashleigh Hughes out indefinitely with broken hand

A big loss for the Wildcats

Jason Bartel

A young Arizona team just got younger.

Senior centerfielder Ashleigh Hughes has a broken left hand and is out indefinitely, head coach Mike Candrea said Tuesday.

Hughes suffered the injury in Sunday’s win at ASU when she slid head first while stealing second base in the sixth inning.

Hughes was wearing a black sling on her left arm at Tuesday’s practice, but her injury does not require surgery, Candrea said.

There’s a chance Hughes could miss the rest of the season, per a source, but Candrea said he expects Hughes to play again this season, though it sounded like it would be in a limited role.

“I don’t know exactly when, but I think she’ll be doing something for us, whether it’s playing the outfield or running bases,” Candrea said. “That was a tough one. She led off the first game with a home run, really played like a senior I thought. I was very pleased with her approach the entire weekend, and it was just unfortunate the slide was an obstruction call. It was a hard slide and hard tag and she jammed her finger.”

Hughes is one of just two seniors that start for the Wildcats. The other senior, Aleah Craighton, will move from right field to center in Hughes’ stead.

Craighton was a two-time All-American centerfielder at Louisiana-Lafayette before transferring to Arizona this winter, but she has had a down year, hitting .241 with six homers and 22 RBI.

“It’s fine,” Craighton said of the switch to center. “The outfield is the outfield. I like the grass either way, but it’ll be different not having her here. But since I’ve been in center a lot ... I’ll think we’ll be fine.”

With Craighton in center, Jenna Kean will get more playing time in right field. The speedy freshman is hitting .231 in 52 at-bats this season.

Another freshman, Carli Campbell, will flank Craighton in left.

“We have a lot of young leaders, so with that, you don’t always have the pressure on you and you can rotate the job,” Craighton said of taking on a leadership role.

Kean played a lot of right field earlier in the season when Hughes had to take over for injured second baseman Reyna Carranco for five games.

Meanwhile, Campbell has been a mainstay in left, hitting .303.

“I have a lot of confidence in both of them and I trust whatever ball’s hit in the outfield that all three of us will do our job,” Craighton said.

“It’ll be different, but we have worked with Jenna out there, so we’ll be comfortable during the rest of the season.”

By different, Craighton and Campbell both mentioned Hughes’ penchant for being a vocal leader.

“She likes to talk a lot,” Craighton said.

Campbell added: “She’s very helpful pitch-by-pitch letting us know where we need to be, what the hitter did her last at-bat.”

Arizona will miss Hughes’ bat, too. The lefty was hitting .285/.326/.447 before the injury. She was also on a hot streak, with nine hits in her last eight games, including two homers and a double, setting the table from the leadoff spot.

Arizona’s regular season schedule is fairly easy the rest of the way — they have series against Oregon State (home), GCU (home), and Stanford (away) coming up, along with a home game against New Mexico this Wednesday. But Hughes’ absence still could be a setback for a UA team that just came away with a crucial series win in Tempe.

“I would hope to think that … it’s another opportunity for somebody else to step in, and I think that’s what you need to do to be a good team,” Candrea said. “You have to have some depth. I think we’ll have an opportunity for others to come through, but anytime you lose a starter it definitely affects the lineup a little bit.”

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Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire