Before last Saturday, Hanah Bowen was best known as one of the Arizona Wildcats’ top relievers. Over nine appearances, Bowen has three wins and three saves while maintaining a 0.53 ERA.
Bowen will take on a new role Thursday, when Arizona visits UCLA in the final series of the regular season. Bowen will replace the injured Reyna Carranco at second base, an audition that could last into the postseason. Carranco suffered a broken hand and broken thumb during Game 2 of the Washington series.
The Wildcats start their final three-game series Thursday at UCLA.
“I thought the outcome was very sad and terrible, especially being off the same pitcher and the same time last year, but I felt like I was fully prepared,” Bowen said. “I’ve been playing second every single day in practice and Reyna’s a good player to compete with each and every day. She pushes me.”
Shortstop Jessie Harper said she feels horrible about the way Carranco was taken out of the game and will miss her in the infield, but is still proud of the season her teammate had.
Carranco, a junior, was hitting .433 — second best in the Pac-12 — and had 48 runs, five home runs and 39 RBIs. She struck out just 12 times in 157 at-bats.
“She’s had an amazing, amazing year,” Harper said. “Reyna’s really done everything she possibly could to get her name out there and she’s definitely one that is going to go down for having an amazing season.”
However, Harper isn’t completely thrown off with the change in the infield. During the preseason scrimmages, it was Bowen who played second base next to Harper. Those scrimmages allowed Harper to feel comfortable with Bowen and be confident in having her out there.
“I know Reyna and I, we’re going to be walking her through the process — helping her out any way we can,” Harper said.
“But at the end of the day, I have all the confidence in the world in Hanah Bowen and I think she’ll do amazing there. But I definitely will miss having Reyna on the field and in the lineup. That’s what we definitely needed, was her bat for sure.”
Because Bowen is also a pitcher, coach Mike Candrea would describe his new starting second baseman as a “headsy” batter.
She puts in the work to have a good approach, and it’s just a matter of being able to apply the plan during a game. And Candrea has no doubt Bowen will put in the work to be prepared both offensively and defensively.
“But you know, we also have Ivy Davis that’s very capable of playing some defense for us at second base,” Candrea said. “We’ll kind of see where it goes from here.”
Bowen played every position except catcher during her club career, but it’s her experience in the circle that she believes is her greatest strength when she’s in the batter’s box.
With her knowledge of different pitches and other pitchers, Bowen believes she will have a better understanding of what an opponent might throw. If there’s a runner on first, they could try to pitch her inside to result in a double play.
“Just noticing what pitch they’re going to throw, especially being a pitcher — knowing the situation,” Bowen said.
The Bruins will serve as a test for Arizona’s bats.
Like Washington, which swept the Wildcats in Tucson last weekend, UCLA packs a 1-2 punch in the circle, led by junior Rachel Garcia. The Bruins lead the nation in ERA (1.16); Arizona ranks third (1.41). Garcia’s ERA is 0.71.
UCLA also has two of the top five hitters in the league with Kelli Godin and Bubba Nickles.
Arizona was a couple of hits away from taking a game or two from Washington, but struggled with situational hitting. Candrea said key hits will be even more important against the Bruins.
“They’re a team that probably has more run production than Washington does,” Candrea said. “We’re going to have to pitch very well, we’re going to have play good defense and then we’re going to have to get some key hits.”