Baseball postseason breakdown series: day I

NORMAN, Okla. — The Sooners advanced to their third Super Regional in four years, but for the second time in those three trips, they were unable to secure a spot in Omaha and in light of that, Sooners Illustrated now evaluates the season with a report card.

Overall performance: B-

It's hard to argue with OU's first Big 12 Conference Tournament title since 1997, but in many other ways this season was kind of a letdown. Owning a No. 3 overall draft pick and another in the second round on the hill, the Sooners were unable to live up to their preseason billing of the conference's regular season favorite to win the league. They slumped down the stretch of conference play and never fully recovered until right before the conference tournament, thus losing their grip on first place and falling into fourth before winning the conference tournament. But still, a lot needs to be made of OU becoming just the third team in the last five years to win 40 or more games and it once again earning a trip to Super Regionals.

Season start: A+

Out of the gates, the Sooners looked like the team everyone thought they might be, winning their first 10 before also posting a 13-game winning streak to start out 25-4. That included a conference sweep of TCU and series victory over Kansas that had them out to a 5-1 Big 12 mark. But for a large portion of the season, they were unable to sustain that success.

Season finish: A

Better to finish strong than start out strong and not do so. But this year, OU did both. And the way it closed was quite impressive. After sitting on the bubble the final week of the regular season, OU salvaged a series finale at Kansas State, then rattled off four straight in the Big 12 Tourney before wiping the Blacksburg Regional. That was a solid eight-game winning streak that had them within a pair of victories of Omaha, although it didn't come to fruition.

Living up to expectations: B-

Again, the Sooners didn't win their first outright Big 12 title like many believed they would. But it's fair to say the conference tournament solidified that pick and for a couple weeks they most certainly did. Down the hatch, they definitely lived up to expectations, but just not in the middle.

Clutch hitting: C

OU's biggest problem all year was the fact it couldn't necessarily come up with the key hits when it needed them. Good pitching was constantly plagued by a lineup that couldn't produce at key times. First baseman Matt Oberste set an OU record with his 30-game hitting streak, but once he went cold for the middle portion of OU's season, so did the production of the lineup. Second baseman Hector Lorenzana then became the man everyone had to lean on for big hits, but as expected, even he couldn't always come through. OU just needed some more pop in its lineup.

Pitching: A

Well, the Colorado Rockies' No. 3 selection in ace Jonathan Gray only compiled a 10-3 record with a 1.64 ERA that featured four complete games and two of those shutouts. Not too shabby. Dillon Overton missed a couple weeks with a strained forearm, but he also put together a 9-3 season with a 3.02 ERA. With some good offense and those numbers, many teams could ride just those two to Omaha. Jacob Evans proved to be pretty solid in the closer roll, tallying nine saves and a 2.06 ERA with his 7-2 record. Even Kyle Hayes emerged late out of the pen as a nails guy. This was a certain strength of this Sooner club.

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