NORMAN, Okla. -- If the Arkansas Razorbacks are to make their first appearance in the softball College World Series, they need to do something no visiting opponent has accomplished against Oklahoma this season.
And the Razorbacks will have to do it twice.
Oklahoma (53-3) is undefeated at home going into its super regional opener against the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (42-15) at 4 p.m. today on ESPN 2. Game 2 is set for noon Saturday on ESPN.
If the Razorbacks and Sooners split their first two games and a third matchup is necessary to determine the super regional winner, they'll play at noon Sunday on ESPN.
The two-time defending national champion Sooners improved to 28-0 at Marita Hynes Field this season by sweeping Boston University 9-0, Tulsa 8-0 and Missouri 7-0 in regional play last weekend.
Oklahoma returned 16 of its 17 lettermen from last season's 61-9 team and added freshman outfielder Jocelyn Alo, who is batting .410 with 26 home runs and 67 RBI.
Other superlatives for the Sooners:
• 25 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances
• .328 team batting average and national-leading .435 on-base percentage
• Averaging 7.02 runs to lead the nation
• 1.13 earned run average to rank second nationally behind Oregon's 1.06
• Nine consecutive super regional appearances and 12 overall since the format was introduced in 2005
• 27 shutout victories
• 21-0 against Big 12 opponents
• 14-game winning streak since losing at Oregon -- the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed -- 5-0 on April 19
"Are they good or something?" Arkansas Coach Courtney Deifel said with a laugh as the Sooners' statistics were rattled off. "It is what it is.
"They're very good. But they're just another softball team. When we show up, they don't get a head-start because of all of the things they've done in the past --or even what they've done over the course of the year.
"It's an even playing field when we start. It's going to be a battle. It's postseason. Anything can happen in the postseason. All I know is our girls have a lot of fight and a lot of heart."
The Razorbacks earned their first super regional appearance by beating DePaul 2-0 and Wichita State 5-0 and 6-4 last weekend at Bogle Park.
Oklahoma beat Wichita State 7-6 on April 11 in Norman.
"They'll do OK against OU," Shockers Coach Kristi Bredbenner said after facing the Razorbacks. "They match up OK.
"The key for Arkansas is to play loose and to go out there and take it to them. We'll see what the difference is having a very junior-senior heavy team in OU and a very young team with Arkansas."
Freshman right-hander Mary Haff (29-6, 1.35 ERA) will start today against Oklahoma senior left-hander Paige Parker (28-2, 0.89 ERA).
"You can say they're back-to-back nationals champs, but they're softball players just like we are," Haff said. "So we're jsut just going out there and not being intimidated, because they make mistakes just like we make mistakes, and just like normal human beings.
"Just try not to make them bigger than what they are and go out and play softball."
The Razorbacks are 2-23 against Oklahoma, but they played well against the Sooners in a 5-3 loss in a regional game in Norman last season.
Arkansas' lone victory in 14 games at Oklahoma was 11-9 in 2009.
"We're definitely the underdog," Razorbacks senior left fielder Tori Cooper said. "That's no secret. But I honestly think that motivates us.
"We know people are doubting us and nobody really sees us coming out of this super regional, so we just have that chip on our shoulders -- let's go shock the world. Let's go prove everyone wrong.
"I know that we're a much better team when we play with that chip on our shoulders."
Senior third baseman Autumn Buczek said the Razorbacks will play loose with all of the pressure on the Sooners.
"Let's play free and just go do our thing," Buczek said. "So they'd better watch out."
Deifel, in her third season at Arkansas, began her coaching career at Oklahoma as a graduate assistant for Coach Patty Gasso during the 2007 and 2008 seasons when the Sooners had a combined 102-22 record.
Gasso will be going for her 1,200th victory in 24 seasons at Oklahoma in today's game. She has a 1,199-325-2 record with 4 national championships, including 3 since 2013.
"It would be easy to get wrapped up in everything that they've done," Deifel said. "But our team's not big-eyed. It doesn't matter who's in the other dugout. We're going to focus on what we do and what got us to this point.
"There's going to be all kinds of things just pumping up Oklahoma and counting us out. I think the biggest thing is we can't count ourselves out, and this team won't."
Sports on 05/25/2018
Arkansas at Oklahoma in NCAA softball super regional
WHEN 4 p.m. today
WHERE Marita Hynes Field, Norman, Okla.
RECORDS Arkansas 42-15. Oklahoma 53-3.
SERIES Oklahoma leads 23-2
STARTING PITCHERS Arkansas: RHP Mary Haff (29-6, 1.35 ERA). Oklahoma: LHP Paige Parker (28-2, 0.89 ERA).
FORMAT Best 2 of 3 series. The teams play at noon on Saturday on ESPN. If a third game is necessary, they’ll play at noon on Sunday on ESPN.
Print Headline: Tall order awaits: UA embracing Oklahoma challenge