UCLA's softball team hopes to have a leg to stand on all this weekend.
The continued health of pitcher and first baseman Megan Langenfeld will be a key element when the second-ranked Bruins face Missouri in a best-of-three NCAA super regional beginning tonight at UCLA's Easton Stadium.
A foot injury forced her to leave last weekend's regional final against Fresno State. "It's just a mild foot sprain," said Langenfeld, a junior. "I should be ready to go by [today]."
Langenfeld, the pitching staff's ace and also third on the team in batting average, practiced this week and the team says she is ready to go.
The Bruins can only hope she stays that way.
They've struggled when Langenfeld has been injured and thrived when she was 100%. Langenfeld suffered a high ankle sprain in February and the Bruins lost five of their first six Pacific 10 Conference games. They have won 18 of 19 games since.
Langenfeld has a 16-1 record and an earned-run average of 0.99. She is also hitting .358 with 11 home runs and 57 runs batted in.
But she was injured during warmups last Saturday and was pulled early in an 8-5 victory over Fresno. Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said it was an "opportunity to give her some rest," though it came at a strange time -- with the Bruins trailing, 3-1.
"It was precautionary," said Langenfeld, adding that the injury bothered her most when she was pitching. "We just didn't want it to get any worse."
A healthy Langenfeld makes the Bruins nearly unbeatable. She has a 12-1 record and 0.41 ERA since returning from her ankle injury.
That streak began with 5 2/3 shutout innings of relief in a victory over Arizona that ended a UCLA five-game losing a streak. Langenfeld followed up that performance a no-hitter and one-hitter against Washington, then ranked third, in UCLA's next two games.
At the plate, she is hitting .553 with nine home runs and 39 RBIs in the last 19 games.
"It has been an unlucky season for me, but luckily I think we're getting past that," Langenfeld said. "I'm looking forward to this series against Missouri."
The Bruins (48-9) and Tigers (44-9) have played once this season, a 2-1 UCLA victory. The final two games of the super regional are scheduled for Sunday, with the winner advancing to the College World Series in Oklahoma City.
UCLA has reached the College World Series in nine of the last 10 seasons, winning titles in 1999, 2003 and 2004.