This first part features a season report card.
Overall performance: C-
Coming into the year, this team had all the makings of a group that could make a return trip to Omaha. The Sooners brought back most all of their lineup minus second baseman Danny Black and had a large portion of their mainstay pitching back, with the exception of starter Zach Neal and middle reliever Jeremy Erben. But the Coaches' Preseason Big 12 Champion-predicted squad slumped in the midseason and never returned to good form. It finished just three games over .500 at 14-11 in conference play and went 1-2 in the Big 12 Tournament before being ousted in a pair of games in the Fort Worth Regional.
Season start: A+
It couldn't have been better. Once upon a time, the Sooners were 16-0 with the program's best start in school history. That included double-digit run totals in eight of the first 15 games. But it was all downhill from there. OU endured a three-game losing streak after its first setback during a stretch where it went 2-6 and never truly regained its early season swagger.
Season finish: D-
Another 2-6 stretch occurred in the Sooners' last eight games of the year. After reeling off nine in a row, it appeared they were poised for another excellent finish this season like in 2010. But then Waco and the Baylor Bears stood in their way. The Sooners lost two of three to the Bears and lost a pair of games to Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament, sandwiched around a victory over Texas Tech, before going two-and-barbecue in the NCAAs. With that, the season came to a close in a much different manner that expected.
Living up to expectations: D-
Regardless of the talent level of a team heading into a year, it's always a tall task to make a return trip to Omaha. But that wasn't the only goal this group fell short of. As previously mentioned, many figured this team would win the Big 12 Conference, earn a regional host and perhaps a national seed. None of that happened.
Clutch hitting: C
For a vast majority of the season, the Sooners just didn't have it. They couldn't string together key hits when they needed them, and that's a major reason why eight of their 19 losses came by just one run. In fact, the Sooners were a miserable 3-8 in one-run games this year. If OU could have recorded a couple more hits in key situations here and there, a few decisions may have been differently and the overall scope of the season perhaps would have been different. But struggling in clutch scenarios put more pressure on the team as a whole and ultimately led to a less successful result.
The Sooners had two 10-game winners in senior ace Michael Rocha (10-3, 1.75 ERA) and junior Burch Smith (10-4, 3.90 ERA). In fact, Rocha's season landed him as an All-Big 12 First Team member and Second Team All-American. Freshman lefty Dillon Overton shined in his first year as well, working his way to an 8-4 record and 2.30 ERA. And in 20 appearances, redshirt freshman Jordan John was 4-2 with a 2.35 ERA. The bullpen was less impressive but still not horrible by any means. Senior Tyson Seng had a 2.08 ERA in 23 meetings and closer Ryan Duke, although he was vastly inconsistent, especially at the end of the season, picked up seven saves.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's version of the postseason breakdown series.