Arizona softball could be adding an All-American to their lineup this weekend.
Head coach Mike Candrea is hoping to get second baseman Reyna Carranco back from a broken thumb that has sidelined her since late February. Carranco took ground balls and batting practice on Tuesday and may see some action when the Wildcats face New Mexico State (twice) and Team Mexico in the Bear Down Fiesta.
“She’s getting closer,” Candrea said Wednesday. “I’m hoping that I get can her an at-bat or two, or play a game this weekend.”
Carranco has been able to throw for at least two weeks now, but returning to the batter’s box has been the trickier part.
“We’re just waiting until she can grab a bat and start putting some pressure on that thumb,” Candrea said on March 28. “Throwing she can kind of get away with it because the thumb kinda sits underneath the ball. But when you’re hitting, it’s a little different movement.”
A steady fielder and career .363 hitter, Carranco can help stabilize an Arizona lineup that is super talented but has been inconsistent at times. She usually hits in the No. 2 spot and sets the table for the sluggers in the middle of the order.
This is an ideal time for her to return because she can get some at-bats in some inconsequential games before Arizona resumes Pac-12 play at No. 13 ASU on April 16 when all hands will need to be on deck.
Should Carranco not be able to play this weekend, she may be able to return for the doubleheader vs. GCU on Wednesday, April 14.
“You can’t just sit out for a month and walk right into the game and pick it up,” Candrea said.
The Wildcats have mostly been leaning on freshman Allie Skaggs during Carranco’s absence. Skaggs has hit .225 with two homers, a double and six RBI. Junior Hanah Bowen has gotten a handful of starts too, but has gone hitless in her last 14 at-bats.
“It’s a tough spot to fill,” Skaggs said a couple weeks ago. “[Reyna’s] awesome. I didn’t really expect to have to fill in that spot, but I think after all of these at bats I’ve gotten really comfortable, especially after the Florida trip. I got to see a lot of it bats against really good pitching and I think I’m just so much more comfortable out there now.
“You’re playing with these great players, you’re playing with Jessie Harper, you’re playing with Dejah (Mulipola) behind the plate, you’ve got these really experienced girls and I think just having them believing in you and having coach believe in you, you can just feel the love. I think it just makes filling in that spot just so much easier.”
Arizona enters the weekend ranked No. 8 in the country. They are 22-5 overall, 6-2 in the Pac-12 and riding an eight-game winning streak after sweeping Oregon State and Stanford the last two weeks.