Reyna Carranco is so soft-spoken that when she concluded the postgame press conference Saturday afternoon, Arizona coach Mike Candrea quipped with a smile, “I don’t think I’ve heard you talk that much, Reyna.”
Carranco faced the media, following the Wildcats’ 2-1 win over Auburn in the Tucson Regional semifinal game, after she stared down the anxiety of returning after missing the last two weeks with injuries to both hands suffered when she was hit by a pitch against Washington.
The standing-ovation lift from the Hillenbrand Stadium crowd when she was announced before her first at-bat as the designated player Saturday certainly helped.
Reyna Carranco gets a rousing round of applause from the Hillenbrand crowd. pic.twitter.com/DKNhKTnodm
“I thought it was super cool. I didn’t really know what to do,” Carranco said. “I thought it was super cool. I’ve never seen that before.”
“And I haven’t either in 34 years,” Candrea said.
What he has seen in the past plenty of times is a dominant pitcher take the circle two consecutive days and have effective performances like senior Taylor McQuillin.
After limiting Harvard to one hit on a home run in the first inning in Friday’s 5-1 win, McQuillin pitched another complete game against the Tigers allowing the only run on a home run to Bree Fornis to lead off the seventh.
After recording two outs in the inning, McQuillin gave up a single to No. 9 batter Morgan Podany before getting Casey McCrackin to pop out to second base to end the game.
Taylor McQuillin consecutive complete-game wins. Arizona is in the championship round of the regional tomorrow at 4 p.m. at Hillenbrand. pic.twitter.com/zYwXLWc0ou
“It was a close game, it was a great game,” said McQuillin, who improved to 22-7 by striking out five, walking two and allowing six hits. “These are the types of games you’re going to see in the postseason.”
Arizona, the No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament, will next play in the championship round of the regional Sunday at 4 p.m. at Hillenbrand. The Wildcats (44-12) will face the winner of Saturday night’s game between Auburn and the winner of the Harvard-Colorado State elimination game played late Saturday afternoon.
McQuillin has 13 strikeouts and six walks with seven hits and two runs allowed in her 14 innings of work in the post season.
Carranco played to form as the Pac-12’s leading batter, going 2 for 3, with a hard-hit slap single in the infield in the second inning and a line-drive single in the fourth. Her batting average is now at .442.
She said that swinging the bat, “felt regular to me.”
Her timetable to return to the field defensively at second base is uncertain. Sophomore Hanah Bowen has played that position in her place.
“I think I’m taking it day by day with the fielding because it’s more intense. When I feel I can, I will,” Carranco said.
Carranco with the infield slap hit… this after she fractured bones in both hands two weeks ago when she was hit by a pitch against Washington. The crowd goes nuts. pic.twitter.com/iM8Sis5osc
Her hit in the fourth after Rylee Pierce led off with a walk fueled Arizona’s pivotal two-run rally with two outs. T Statman was used as a pinch-hitter at the No. 9 spot and her single to centerfield scored Pierce and Carranco to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead against Auburn lefty Lexie Handley.
“Knowing that the coach has the trust in me to get it done and my teammates have my back that I can get it done … it’s my first at-bat of the game, who says you can’t get a hit?” Statman said.
Candrea showed his aggressive nature and smarts as an eight-time national championship coach by having Statman swing away on a 3-1 count with two runners on and the game scoreless.
After Statman hit a foul to make it a full-count, she came through with the two-run single.
“A 3-1 count is a hitter’s count,” said Candrea, who added that he studied the stats of Statman against lefties and knew he could use her in that situation.
“I was looking at the numbers today and felt like she would be the one off the bench if needed to be and it worked out,” he said.
RECAP || Arizona Advances to Regional Final, Beats Auburn 2-1
Manufacturing runs is obviously part of Arizona’s arsenal even though the Wildcats have tallied 99 home runs this season. Incredibly, Candrea’s team has won both games in the postseason without hitting a home run.
“Isn’t that something?” Candrea said. “At this stage of the game, if you understand the postseason, you’re going to be facing really good pitching. You have to do the little things.
“Trying to set you up for opportunities to score a run are important. In every inning we try to get the leadoff hitter on. We’re probably in certain situations are going to move that runner.”
Survive and advance. 😼
Tamara Statman led @ArizonaSoftball to victory against Auburn with a two-RBI single in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Handley (6-4) pitched in place of Auburn’s Ashlee Swindle, who took a line drive to the face in Friday’s win over Colorado State. Swindle was treated and released at nearby UMC and is slated to be out a week (if Auburn somehow survives to the Super Regional round).
Handley allowed four hits with five walks in six innings. She struck out one.
“Right now, we just have to find a way to put up a ‘W,'” Candrea said. “It’s not how many you score, it’s getting good pitching, getting timely hitting and playing good defense, and if those three things are occurring, we have an opportunity.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.