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John McKelvey | The Norman Transcript | April 17, 2018

Carrying momentum, Oklahoma softball faces challenging week

DI Softball: Greatest Players | High Five

Carrying the nation's longest win streak, Oklahoma faces its toughest week yet, and that's by design.

OU coach Patty Gasso likes challenging her team, and the back-to-back national champions have passed nearly every hurdle en route to a 39-2 record, 12-0 in the Big 12. Still, the Sooners could use a mid-season RPI bump, which is becoming a yearly requirement given the conference's struggles.

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Gasso's group No. 6 in the NCAA's Ratings Percentage Indez, and only three other Big 12 teams are in the top 50. This week, OU has four games against top-50 opponents, beginning at 6 tonight at No. 49 Tulsa and continuing against top-ranked Oregon, followed by back-to-back games against No. 15 Oregon State on Thursday, Friday and Saturday on both the Ducks' and Beavers' diamonds.

"This is an unbelievable challenge this late in the season," Gasso said. "I'm anxious and really excited to see how they attack this."

Two years ago, the Sooners tried something similar, beating then-No. 12 Tennessee in Knoxville. They were rewarded with a top-eight postseason seed and a home super regional.

Last year, OU hosted then-No. 25 Arkansas, winning 4-2 and finishing the regular season. However, this time, the defending national champions were on the road for super regional play, facing Auburn, the team they beat in the Women's College World Series championship series the previous season.

RANKINGS: USA Today/NFCA Coaches | ESPN.com/USA Softball

"It's good for us to get in an atmosphere outside of home, get in a rowdy crowd and see how we respond to it," Gasso said. "This next week is brutal, but it's going show where we are and what kind of character we have."

Her players don't seem to mind. A difficult schedule comes with the territory.

"It's definitely tough, but it's exciting," catcher Lea Wodach said. "It's awesome to go play in the big-time atmosphere that Oregon is going to give us. They were a World Series team last year. To see where we are at against a team like that in the middle of the season is huge."

The Sooners will be risking their win streak, which is now two games short of the program record, set in 2016. Gasso didn't know what the total was after Sunday's 10-1 victory over Kansas, saying she doesn't worry about it.

The players are with her.

"As an entire team, we just want to win," Caleigh Clifton said. "We put in the work. We just want to show it off on the field. We just want to win."

This article is written by John McKelvey from The Norman Transcript, Okla. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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