The Arizona Wildcats will be without star second baseman Reyna Carranco for a while, possibly even the rest of the season.
The junior broke her left hand and right thumb on Friday when she was hit by a pitch from Washington’s Taran Alvelo.
The timetable for Carranco’s return is unclear, but the postseason is only a week away, so she doesn’t have much time to heal.
“I think it’s going to be one of those week-by-week things to see how much (pain) she can tolerate,” UA coach Mike Candrea said Tuesday before the team’s road trip to UCLA. “It’s time for the next person to step up and it’s definitely a void for us.”
Hanah Bowen is getting the first crack at replacing Carranco (though Candrea said fellow sophomore Ivy Davis is an option too).
Bowen made two starts in place of Carranco last weekend against Washington, logging one hit in five at-bats. She felt prepared for her new role, never mind that she has primarily served as a relief pitcher this season.
“I’ve been playing second every single day during practice and Reyna is a good player to compete with each and every day, and she pushes me,” Bowen said.
The Wildcats will miss Carranco in more ways than one. Not only does she lead Arizona in batting average (.433), she’s also a member of the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team, flashing good range and glovework at second.
Bowen is still building her résumé.
The former top-60 recruit has three hits in 16 at-bats this season, all singles. By all accounts, her best attributes in the batter’s box are her patience and pitch recognition. Bowen has drawn three walks, including one Sunday against the Huskies.
“She’s very good at identifying balls and strikes and knowing, ‘hey, this is a pitcher’s count, so she might be throwing this,’” said UA shortstop Jessie Harper. “She’s very knowledgeable in that sense, but she’s gonna get very deep in the count. She’s going to get a good pitch to hit. So I think we’ll look for some really good at-bats out of her for sure.”
Bowen said her keen eye stems from her background as a pitcher.
“I think it’s just knowing what pitch they’re going to throw, especially in that situation,” she said. “If there’s a runner on first, they’re probably going to pitch me in to try to get a double play.”
Bowen has pitched 26.2 innings this season, posting a sparkling 0.52 ERA. The right-hander is probably Arizona’s third-best hurler behind Taylor McQuillin and Alyssa Denham, so she plans to warm up before games so she can still enter the circle if need be.
Whatever her role is, Candrea has no doubt Bowen will be prepared, characterizing the Ramona, California native as a “grinder.”
“She’s a very headsy player, and I think she puts in the work to have a good approach, a good plan,” he said. “It’s just a matter of being able to apply the plan when you get into the game.”
Bowen played every position but catcher during her high school and travel ball days, but is rather untested at second base — at the collegiate level, at least. She has only made three starts there since joining the Wildcats, all of them in the wake of a Carranco injury, including one last season.
But Harper said she is comfortable sharing the middle infield with Bowen, citing their time as teammates during fall scrimmages.
“I think this is just the start for her,” Harper said. “I know she would have wanted to come out with her competing for the spot rather than her getting it through the fact that Reyna had to get hurt, but I know she’s willing to step up and I know she’s gonna give it her all, so I’m proud of her.”
As for Carranco, she arrived at Tuesday’s practice with a brace on her wrist and, somehow, a smile on her face.
“Reyna is the type of person where she will never let you know that she is fazed by anything,” Harper said. “She is the most amazing, strong human. Even when she was hit last year by Taran and she broke her nose, she was totally fine. She’s like, ‘I’m good. Whatever.’ I’d be on the ground crying. I’d be in so much pain. But she’s an amazing woman and I know she’s super strong and she’s trying to do everything she can to get back out here for us.”
In the meantime, Carranco has been pumping confidence into Bowen by telling her to be calm and play her game.
“The outcome is terrible,” Bowen said, “but I know I just gotta step up for her and my team.”