Arizona softball’s lineup was hitting on all cylinders against Cal last weekend, much thanks to the two spark plugs at the top.
Slappers Janelle Meoño and Reyna Carranco, Arizona’s No. 1 and 2 hitters, combined for eight hits in the two-game sweep. They also scored, or knocked in, 11 of UA’s 20 runs.
“We know our job is to get on base for our big hitters and I think that’s what we really embrace,” Carranco said. “I know I just try to hit the ball hard, square it up, see it good and whatever happens, happens.”
Meoño went 6 for 6 against the Bears, extending her hitting streak to 27 games, the longest in Arizona history since at least 1994. Because of her blazing speed, she’s almost a given to reach base anytime she puts the ball in play.
These days, that’s virtually every at-bat. The redshirt freshman has only struck out eight times all season and once since April 3.
“There’s a couple things that go her way,” head coach Mike Candrea said. “Number one, she’s got a great approach, a great demeanor, in the batter’s box. Emotional stability, never gets too high never gets too low. And she’s got great hand-eye coordination. She can just about do anything she wants with the bat.”
Most of Meoño’s hit are of the infield variety—good luck throwing her out when she pounds the ball into the dirt—but she’s flashed some pop, too. The UA left fielder has six doubles, a triple, and a homer this season.
Against Cal, Meoño laced a line drive into the left field gap for an RBI double.
“She truly amazes me because she can soft slap and then she can go ahead and do power and she hits home runs,” Carranco said. “She’s really one of a kind and I think it’s so great that we have a girl like that because she can really do it on any situation and I know we just trust her up there at the one spot.”
Meoño has perfected a simple plate approach.
“If (the pitch) is up, I’m gonna hit a line drive…and then if she throws down, I’m gonna chop,” she said.
Candrea said Meoño’s slap-hitting is reminiscent of former All-American outfielder (and current associate head coach) Caitlin Lowe, who has the second-highest batting average in Arizona history (.446).
“It’s more the pre-movement. You know, the rhythm that she creates, and that is huge,” Candrea said of Meoño. “I mean, you can’t just run out of the box. You gotta be able to control yourself so that you can make adjustments to speed, location, movement and deception. And I think Cait was very good at that, and I also think she was a very cerebral player that was a student of the game that understood what pitchers were trying to do and have a good game plan.”
Candrea says Meoño is cerebral too, a trait he says has developed since arriving on campus in fall 2019. Senior shortstop Jessie Harper loves to pick Meoño’s brain in the batting cage.
“Even though I have a completely different goal when I’m up to the plate than her, it’s just fun to bounce thoughts back and forth,” Harper said. “She is so good. I am so proud of her and she’s gonna have a bright, bright future. She truly is amazing.”
Pair Meoño with another consistent, even-keeled hitter like Carranco and Arizona’s 1-2 hitters are as good as it gets.
Carranco has super productive since returning from a broken thumb on April 10, logging 16 hits in her last 12 games. The senior second baseman had six multi-hit games during that stretch, upping her batting average from .294 to .400. She, too, rarely strikes out, fanning just twice all season.
“It broke my heart when she hurt her hand back in the beginning of the year,” Harper said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how could this happen to Reyna once again?’ But she is so truly amazing. She healed up super quick. I never hear her complain about a single thing and she’s a grinder. She just stepped back in there like she never missed a day, and she’s getting on base all the time.”
Carranco even homered against Cal, a two-run shot to the opposite field, her first of the season. Who was on base? You can probably guess.
“I really love hitting behind Janelle,” Carranco said. “I feel like, ‘OK, Janelle’s got three hits today, I gotta step up.’ She really inspires me.”