Arizona softball dropped another game to No. 3 Washington and lost its star second baseman to injury Saturday in a 3-1 affair at Hillenbrand Stadium.
Reyna Carranco exited the game in the first inning after a pitch from UW’s Taran Alvelo struck her left hand as she tried to check her swing.
Arizona coach Mike Candrea said Carranco has a broken hand and not one, but two, broken thumbs.
Alvelo is the same pitcher who plunked Carranco in the face in Seattle last season.
Candrea declined to offer any sort of timetable for her return, but it’s possible Carranco misses the rest of the season since only a month (at most) remains.
“I’m not going to say anything about it other than it’s unfortunate,” Candrea said.
Carranco is hitting .433, easily the best mark on the team. The junior was replaced by sophomore Hanah Bowen, who went 1 for 3 and has three hits in 14 at-bats this season.
“Hanah is a grinder. She’ll make adjustments, she’ll make the play, she’s prepared,” Candrea said. “But it’s tough to lose your leading hitter in a moment like this, so it stings me a little bit.”
Even with a healthy Carranco, Arizona had been struggling to score lately. Saturday marked the third time in the last four games the Wildcats have been held to one or fewer runs.
Arizona (40-10, 17-3) stroked eight hits off the flame-throwing Alvelo, but once again failed to come through when it mattered most.
After leaving nine runners on base in Friday’s loss, Arizona stranded eight Saturday, hitting 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
UA’s lone run was a second-inning solo homer by Rylee Pierce that tied the game at 1-all.
“It’s something we’re going to have to fix and something we’re going to have to work on because that’s going to be a big key for us moving forward,” Candrea said. “Like I told them, hell we won a national championship with one hit. We scored a run on one hit. So it’s not how many, it’s being able to fight every at-bat, being able to put the ball in play, make the defense do some things and then hopefully you can find an opening and drive in a run at the right time.”
Washington (41-7, 16-4) did exactly that in the fifth inning. Amirah Milloy led off with a bunt single and Sis Bates drew a walk, before Morganne Flores bunted to move them into scoring position.
Sami Reynolds then drove in both runners by singling up the middle to give UW a lasting 3-1 lead.
It was the second loss in as many starts for Alyssa Denham, who surrendered five hits and three walks while striking out two. She was relieved by Gina Snyder in the sixth.
“Unfortunately it’s the one pitch, the one hit that’s the difference in big ballgames,” Candrea said.
Washington’s first run came via a defensive miscue by the Wildcats. With a runner on second, Kaija Gibson chopped a grounder between first and second. Pierce collected it but could not beat Gibson to the bag after pausing momentarily.
Meanwhile, Reynolds wisely rounded third and scored without a throw while Pierce had her back to the play.
“Rylee thought it was too slow for us to throw anyone out at first so she fielded it, but unfortunately she made a mistake because she didn’t realize there was a lead runner and she should have made sure the runner at third didn’t go anywhere,” Candrea said.
“I think it was a weirdly placed hit and a little bit of miscommunication,” added Denham. “But it happens.”
Arizona rallied in the seventh when Peanut Martinez and Carli Campbell singled to begin the frame, but Alvelo retired Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, Bowen and Jessie Harper in order to escape the jam.
Alvelo had 11 strikeouts, torturing the Wildcats with her blistering riseball.
“That’s two nights in a row that in the seventh inning we’ve come back and got what we needed to give ourselves an opportunity, but we just couldn’t get the key hit after that,” Candrea said. “And we had the right people up.”
The Wildcats drop to 1-7 against top-10 teams, a scary stat if they hope to make any noise in the postseason.
And UCLA beat Stanford on Saturday, meaning the Wildcats are now a game behind the Bruins in the loss column. UCLA hosts Arizona next weekend.
“We have to find a way to embrace the big moment,” Candrea said. “Sometimes we get into the big moments and we don’t do what we need to do to relax and feed ourselves confidence. I mean that’s what happens in this game. As you move up the ladder, you have to be able to handle those moments. … I just feel like right now there’s times when the game got quick on us and we’re missing one hit, one pitch, one play. Against good teams and good pitching, you can’t do it.”
After the game, Candrea held a lengthy meeting with UA players on the outfield grass, hoping to instill some confidence in them before Sunday’s series finale.
“That we’re one hit away from busting everything open,” Denham said.
“That we have a great test the next two weeks to see what we’re made of and to make a statement,” Pierce added.
Here’s Mike Candrea after Arizona Softball’s 3-1 loss to WashingtonPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, May 4, 2019
Rylee Pierce’s solo homer was Arizona Softball’s lone run in Saturday’s loss to WashingtonPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, May 4, 2019
Here’s right-hander Alyssa Denham on Arizona Softball’s 3-1 loss to WashingtonPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, May 4, 2019