Call it the dog days of autumn.

Months have dwindled down to weeks, and weeks have whittled down to days.

But for the UCLA softball team, the day is, at long last, fast approaching.

“We’re itching and scratching to get going again,” senior pitcher Megan Langenfeld said. “Everyone has their juices flowing.”

And given the grind of a busy offseason ““ a retreat to Lake Arrowhead, a handful of scrimmage games and the alumni game, not to mention the usual drills and weight room sessions ““ it’s hardly surprising that the Bruins are already chomping at the bit to kick off the 2010 season.

But considering the manner in which last season ended, it has become apparent that redemption factors into that hunger.

“You always have that sick feeling in your stomach after you end the season what you believe to be too early,” Langenfeld said. “We can’t dwell on it, but we do have it in the back of our heads. We don’t want to feel like that ever again.”

Nevertheless, the Bruins have regrouped and retooled, boasting a roster that returns eight of the nine position players from last season ““ not to mention all three pitchers from 2009 ““ while adding several key arms and bats to bolster the depth chart.

“We’re deeper in every area,” coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. “We’ve done a great job of bringing in some great athletic talent to allow us to have more depth than last year, and I’m looking forward to figuring out the dynamics on how we’re going to be able to mix and match. It’s real fun as a coach to know that we have a lot of options.”

The Bruins certainly showcase a stacked and talented pitching corps, as sophomore transfer Aleah Macon and freshman Destiny Rodino join the trio of Langenfeld, Donna Kerr and Whitney Baker in the bullpen.

“Aleah is very powerful and has a phenomenal change-up, and she’ll definitely be a big part of our success,” Inouye-Perez said. “Destiny has a swagger about her that I love. The best thing going for her is that she’s left-handed and has a lot of break on her ball. She’ll get out there and be able to contribute as well.”

As far as the infield is concerned, the departure of last year’s senior second baseman Amanda Kamekona means that junior GiOnna DiSalvatore will slide over from first to second, while Langenfeld and sophomore Samantha Camuso are projected to see time at first.

The outfield features a different look as well. Freshman B.B. Bates will take over as the starting right fielder and is expected to make an immediate impact with her bat and speed.

“(Bates) is a triple threat,” Inouye-Perez said. “She can bunt, slap and hit, and she has great speed. She’ll be right there at the top of the batting lineup and will be thrown into the mix right off the bat as a freshman.”

Behind the plate, senior Kaila Shull returns as the starting catcher, with a full plate in front of her.

Despite having to handle a pitching rotation that goes five-deep, with each day’s worth of practice and drills, Shull has been able to steadily strengthen the bonds with her pitchers.

“We get as much work in as we can every day,” Shull said. “It’s also something where the off-the-field relationships carry over and help as well. Now, it’s just a matter of being able to have a heightened sense of awareness and to really be attentive to what each pitcher needs.”

As for leadership, the Bruins will look to none other than Shull, Langenfeld and third baseman Julie Burney, the three seniors on the team, to usher in the new season.

And although senior status means greater responsibilities, it’s a task that the trio is not completely unfamiliar with.

“Last season, we only had one senior in (Kamekona), so we were a part of helping her out,” Burney said. “This year, we have a bit of a greater role as seniors, but I feel like we’re really prepared from last year, so we went into it smoothly.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, five new faces join the Bruin clubhouse. Along with Macon, Rodino and Bates are two other freshmen, Devon Lindvall and Charlotte Dolan, the former a high school teammate of Rodino and the latter a 6-foot-2-inch catcher heralding from Vancouver.

“Devon Lindvall is a true outfielder with a great read,” Inouye-Perez said. “Right now, she’s playing behind (junior center fielder) Katie Schroeder, but if she were to have to go into the lineup, we wouldn’t skip a beat because she’s solid defensively.”

“I am excited about the future for Charlotte Dolan. She was injured in the fall, but she has a great knowledge of the game and swings a big stick. She is going to do great things for our program.”

Off the field, chemistry has never been an issue for a program that prides itself on teamwork and unity, and this year figures to be no different.

“With so many girls coming back from last year’s team, it’s like we haven’t really stopped,” Langenfeld said. “And the freshmen jumped right in. They didn’t have any problems; they just started going with us.”