Arizona second baseman Reyna Carranco is a potential leadoff hitter for the Wildcats next season after hitting .454 in the last 34 games of her freshman year.

Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

Editor’s note: The Star’s Zack Rosenblatt is counting down the 50 best athletes on the UA campus right now, with help from athletes, coaches and those close to the program.

No. 29: Reyna Carranco

The details: Carranco is a 5-foot-6 second baseman and slap-hitter from Oxnard, California, entering her sophomore season with Arizona softball. Carranco came to the Wildcats somewhat under the radar in a recruiting class that included Jessie Harper and Dejah Mulipola, the latter rated the No. 5-overall recruit in the nation by FloSoftball. Still, Carranco was highly sought after — she picked the Wildcats over ASU, Oklahoma and Florida State. Upon signing, Carranco said she picked the UA because “right when I stepped on campus I felt at home. I love everything Arizona has to offer and I especially love the family atmosphere coach (Mike) Candrea and the softball program bring.”

The numbers: Carranco’s full-season numbers don’t tell the whole story. At the end of her freshman season, her line looked like this: .340 average, 1 home run, 17 RBIs, 35 runs and a .447 on-base percentage. For a bottom-of-the-order hitter, those are all solid numbers. They’re even better considering this: Carranco hit .150 in Arizona’s first 27 games. She hit .454 in the last 34.

“I was really mad because I wasn’t doing what I knew how to do,” Carranco said in the postseason. “I just kept trying and trying, so that’s when I went to the slap.”

The value: Next season, the Wildcats lose star hitters Mandie Perez, Katiyana Mauga and Mo Mercado, though for the sake of Carranco, Perez might be the most relevant one. Perez was Arizona’s leadoff hitter and one of the best run-scorers in the nation. It’s unclear how Candrea plans to alter his lineup next season, but Carranco would be a clear candidate to rise from the bottom of the order to the top, or near it, with her slap-hitting, speed and ability to get on base.

If the Wildcats expect to make a run back to Oklahoma City, Carranco will be a big part of that.

Why Carranco? The infielder went through some noticeable freshman struggles to start out her career, but after some adjustments, she was Arizona’s hottest hitter, and probably its most consistent, the rest of the season. If Carranco continues that trajectory, she has star potential. Candrea attributed some of her early struggles to trying to get Carranco to focus less on the short game and more on her untapped power potential. When that wasn’t working out, they adjusted back to the short game.

“She swings the bat well. When I recruited her I was impressed with her power,” Candrea said. “She’s got good hands, she makes good decisions and she’s starting to realize there’s times when she can use the short game, and I think she’s been able to use it quite well. Now she’s a five-tool player that can do a lot of different things.”

Proof she’s good: Carranco entered Arizona’s first Pac-12 series against Oregon State with that .150 batting average.

In the first game of that series, she was 2 for 2 with two runs scored. The rest of the way, she had nine multi-hit games after getting zero prior to Pac-12 play.

Carranco was particularly impressive against Oregon, going 3 for 4 with two runs and a triple in a 10-7 win, and in the postseason when she opened with three multi-hit games in a row and hit .556 overall in six games.

Before the postseason, Carranco was named both an All-Pac-12 third team selection and made the Pac-12 All-Freshman team. She’s also a talented fielder at second base.

“If you hit her 1,000 ground balls, she will probably pick the right hop 985 times,” Candrea said. “Rarely she gets a bad hop. She’s got some things you don’t teach, great instincts.”

What Carranco can accomplish: Carranco was Arizona’s leading hitter from the start of Pac-12 play onward, and it’d be reasonable to expect her to lead the Wildcats in batting average next season.

With continued improvement, Carranco is a legitimate candidate for All-Conferece first- or second-team honors.

Coachspeak: “She’s got a calmness to her. Be around her a little bit, and you want to check her pulse and make sure she’s still breathing because she’s one of those. She doesn’t get excited, which makes her a great second baseman .” — Candrea

She said it: “I don’t know what it was, I just think it was a funk because I was like, what the heck is going on? It’s just settling in now more that I know what’s going on. … I feel a little more confident now I think than at the beginning and I think I’m more comfortable now with Pac-12 play started because I know what’s going to be happening now, and that’s really helped me.” — Carranco at mid-season after breaking her slump.

Contact:zrosenblatt@tucson.com or 573-4145. On Twitter: @ZackBlatt