This first part features a season report card.
Overall performance: B+
All things considered, you have to chalk this year up as a success. The Sooners lost 10 players to the 2011 Major League Draft and still managed to emerge as the Charlottesville Regional Champion after upending No. 4 Army, top-seed Virginia and No. 3 Appalachian State in consecutive days out of the loser's bracket. They went from on the bubble with about a month to play to knocking off No. 5 national seed Baylor five straight times en route to becoming a lock. OU finished the campaign a healthy 42-25 for the program's fourth consecutive 40-plus-win season.
Season start: C
As previously mentioned, the Sooners put themselves squarely on the bubble after a rough start. They dropped the inaugural series two games to one to Pepperdine before rattling off eight of nine. But they slumped some from there. OU struggled out to a 4-8 Big 12 Conference start, including sweeps by Texas and Texas A&M, before it really started to make up some ground.
Season finish: A
For as big a hole as OU put itself in early on, it climbed out of it just as much. The turning point was the Bedlam Series, when the Sooners dropped two of three and a heartbreaking 3-2 rubber match loss in the process. With a week to gather, they bounced back with a sweep of then-undefeated Baylor in Big 12 play. From there, the Sooners won a series against Samford, then won three straight, including two more against Baylor, on their way to earning a spot in the Big 12 Championship game. Though OU lost to Missouri, it went on to go 4-1 in regional play before South Carolina knocked it out in the Columbia Super Regional. All in all, the Sooners closed 12-6 down the stretch and won 24 of their final 35 times out.
Living up to expectations: A
It's safe to say this team really didn't have much in the way of expectations from the outside heading into the season. Given the fact that they lost so many key contributors from a year earlier, many predicted this to be a mediocre year at best, mediocre by OU standards, at least. It proved to be much more than that. A couple more hits here and there and the Sooners could still be playing this weekend in Omaha.
Clutch hitting: C-
Forget about clutch hitting, the Sooners just really didn't have much at all in the way of offense in 2012. In fact, only three players finished the season above .300 and just two of those were regular starters. Center fielder Max White led the club at .337, while designated hitter Matt Oberste was .312. Drew Harrison, who had just three plate appearances in four games all season, recorded one hit to go .333. Outside of that, second baseman Jack Mayfield, left fielder Erik Ross and right fielder Cody Reine each finished in double figures for doubles along with White and Oberste, and first baseman Hunter Lockwood pounded out a team-high 11 homers, but the numbers slipped off after that. As for clutch situations, well, South Carolina was an example of the nonexistence there. Much like in 2011, the Sooners just weren't able to come up with big hits in the biggest moments.
No doubt, OU's strong suit this year was its pitching. It had three reliable starters on the mound in lefties Jordan John and Dillon Overton, sandwiched around Saturday hurler Jonathan Gray. The three combined for 22 wins, while each posted ERA's of 3.16 or lower. John led the team in that department with his 2.44 ERA, while reliever-turned-closer Steven Okert had the most wins with his 9-8 record. As a team, the Sooners finished with a 3.31 ERA, surrendering just 221 earned runs over 601 innings pitched. It's worth mentioning, too, that John and Okert are among five Sooners drafted this year, with John already inking with the Detroit Tigers.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's version of the postseason breakdown series.