If that was a tentative Reyna Carranco that we saw last weekend, Ole Miss is in for a rude awakening when it comes to Hillenbrand Stadium for this weekend’s Super Regional.
“I feel a lot better after this weekend,” Carranco said Tuesday, three days after returning in momentous fashion from broken bones in her left hand and right thumb suffered just two weeks earlier. “I think the hard part was getting back out there.”
The junior went 2 for 5 with two walks and two runs scored in the Arizona Wildcats’ final two games of a 3-0 run through the Tucson Regional. Carranco singled in her first two at-bats, scoring the winning run in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Auburn.
Carranco, who led the Pac-12 in hitting, was injured on an errant inside pitch against Washington on May 4, causing her to miss the final four games of the regular season and the first contest of the NCAA tourney. She was expected to miss a lot more time after getting hurt, seeing as broken bones tend to take up to six weeks to heal.
Rigorous rehab during the time off enabled her to come back so soon, Carranco said, as did making sure to keep her left hand moving as much as possible to keep it from stiffening. There was also the mental aspect of wondering if she could still perform to the level that she did during the first 50 games.
“Physically I’m always going to be in some kind of pain, but mentally I just had to get over it,” she said. “I knew I could do it, I just had to tell myself I could.”
As much as Carranco’s turn has served as a boost to Arizona’s batting order, her brief absence may have made the team even stronger in the long run. Her replacement at second base, sophomore Hanah Bowen, has six hits in her six starts as well as a pair of sacrifice bunts. Her defense has been good enough to make the Wildcats briefly forget they were without an all-conference defensive honoree.
“I’ve been so proud of her, I’m so happy for her,” Carranco said of Bowen. “She works so hard, she’s like the hardest worker in the world. I’m just happy she gets to shine.”
Bowen’s play has tempered any desire to rush Carranco back onto the field. She’s started at DP since returning to action, and that figures to be the case this weekend unless she shows in practice the next few days that her hand can handle the glove work.
Tuesday, Carranco was merely a spectator during infield drills.
“I think that’s the biggest challenge for her right now, it’s just being able to close her glove,” coach Mike Candrea said. “The ground ball right at her is not going to give her much of a problem, but it’s having to reach for a ball or squeezing her glove. I pretty much have to put it into her hands right now. I’m leaving it up to her and when she says she’s ready and she can prove to me out there that she can play defense.”