There is a sense of redemption on the UCLA softball team.
A season, once on the brink, seems in sync. The Bruins, seeded second in the NCAA tournament, have won 15 of 16 games heading into this weekend's regional at Easton Stadium on the UCLA campus. Yet the chip on the shoulder remains.
The Bruins (41-9) face Long Beach State (34-19) in the first round today at 3:30. Fresno State (36-18) faces Nevada Las Vegas (31-19) at 1.
In their only meeting this season, on March 8, the 49ers beat the Bruins, 2-1. UCLA was 23-2 at the time, but that loss was the first in a 3-6 skid.
"We had several injuries at crucial parts of the season, so we are looking forward to that rematch," UCLA Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. "We're a completely different team."
After recovering from injuries, the Bruins went on their finishing kick.
Pitcher Megan Langenfeld, who also plays first base, suffered a high-ankle sprain during a tournament early in the season and didn't return to full strength until March. She has a 10-1 record and an 0.20 earned-run average in her last 12 games, eight of which were starts.
On the season, Langenfeld is 14-1 with a 0.93 ERA. She is also third on the team with a .344 batting average.
"She has had a phenomenal March and April," Inouye-Perez said. "It has made a difference in the [pitching] circle and at the plate. The bottom line is we turned our season around on her game."
The Bruins were 1-4 in the Pacific 10 Conference after a 9-2 loss to Arizona on April 4. The next day, Langenfeld threw 5 2/3 shutout innings in relief, retiring 17 of 18 batters. The Bruins beat the Wildcats, 3-2, and have lost only once since.
"We had a rough and emotional weekend" Inouye-Perez said about the Arizona matchup. "We were a wreck that Friday, but we battled back in the Sunday game and were able to carry the momentum to the next weekend. Now we're having fun."
Long Beach State has won 10 of its last 12 games.