Baseball Season Preview: Part VII

NORMAN, Okla. – The final part of the series is in, and here are the experts' expectations and predictions for the 2011 OU baseball team.

Beat writer Jono Greco:

OU fans should treat this season as if they were watching the football team. The sky is the limit at L. Dale Mitchell Park this year, and the phrase "national title or bust" is not an unrealistic statement.

Just look at what head coach Sunny Golloway is bringing back: two of his three weekend starters, a closer who is about to set the all-time program saves record and the majority of his position starters.

Yeah, the Sooners have a lot going for them coming into this season. But, let's take the Crimson-tinted glasses off for a second and give a real evaluation about this team.

I'm one of many people who believe the Sooners are capable of returning to the College World Series in 2011.

Many of the major polls have OU ranked at either fifth or sixth in the nation, and the Sooners were tabbed to be the Big 12 favorites Tuesday by the coaches in the conference.

So it's not a secret that OU is going to be good this year, it's just a question of can the team stay healthy and be able to win again in May and June.

For me, the most important quality about a team being able to get to Omaha is whether the players and coaches know how to get there.

Just look at the Texases, North Carolinas, Oregons, Cal State-Fullertons and the other programs around the country that seem to be in the final tournament or almost get there every year: Success breeds success.

And now that the Sooners have the knowledge of how to turn "540 to Omaha" into a reality they have a legitimate shot of returning in a few months.

Now add all of the talent the Sooners are returning with the knowledge of how to get to the College World Series, and that should equate to being able to earn a national seed and at the very least host a Regional round.

With all of the hype and expectations, not making the College World Series would be a disappointment, but this team has the talent, coaching, poise and attitude that can help Sooner Nation avoid being disappointed.

Publisher Joey Helmer:

For all the same reasons and more, this season will once again culminate in Omaha.

After 15 long summers without the Crimson and Cream taking the field at historic Rosenblatt Stadium, the Sooners finally broke through and did so last season.

They took care of California and North Carolina twice, sweeping the Regional Round at L. Dale Mitchell Park, then outlasted Virginia in a best-of-three in the Super Regionals in Charlottesville, Va.

But it certainly wasn't easy.

The Sooners dropped a gut-wrenching 3-2 game in the series opener and were forced to show resolve and resiliency in a must-win situation twice.

That's just what they did, winning a pair of games with their backs against the wall to make it back to Rosenblatt in its final season.

Now, it's on to new challenges of staking a spot in the first ever College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park.

And OU won't have to do it the same way.

It'll host both rounds as a National Seed.

The biggest two reasons why are experience and confidence.

As Jono said, the Sooners bring back almost all of their position starters plus a pair of starters in their weekend rotation, minus Zach Neal.

Not to mention closer Ryan Duke.

This team is loaded, but not only that.

They believe, and that's a powerful thing.

Success breeds success, but confidence is contagious and confidence paves the way for success.

Indeed, with a No. 5 ranking in the preseason Baseball America poll, anything less than Omaha would be a disappointment.

But Sooner fans, don't fret.

That's just where OU will be at the end of the year.

The first step back to Omaha starts against the William and Mary Tribe at 3 p.m. today at L. Dale Mitchell Park. Let's see if the Sooners can live up to the hype.

Check out the rest of the series here:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

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