Baseball postseason breakdown series: day VII

NORMAN, Okla. — Sooners Illustrated now presents the final part to this year's wrap-up series with a look towards next season.

Key returnees:

Second baseman Hector Lorenzana—The junior college transfer from Howard in many ways was OU's offense when times got tough midway through the season and no one else could produce. If the Sooners were in need of a big hit, Lorenzana often produced. He finished .274 with 42 RBI and a team-third best 12 doubles. Lorenzana also showed flashy play in the field from time to time.

Left fielder Craig Aikin—When the coaching staff moved him from center to left, he really thrived. Aikin used his speed and cut off balls in the left center gap, as well as down the line to really strengthen OU's outfield in that way. The speedy Metroplex product also finished with a .286 average and team-high 16 stolen bases.

Catcher Anthony Hermelyn—He called pitches late in the season, and it really seemed to boost his confidence. Hermelyn became a more aggressive hitter at the plate in addition to throwing runner after runner out and becoming a wall behind the dish. He finished as a .275 hitter with 26 RBI and six doubles.

Key losses:

Pitcher Jonathan Gray—There isn't much reason to justify this one, as the No. 3 overall draft pick exits OU on his way to the Colorado Rockies organization. Gray finished with a dominant 1.64 ERA, compiling a 10-3 record with 147 strikeouts to just 24 walks. In four games and two shutouts, he was virtually unhittable at times.

Pitcher Dillon Overton—The other part of OU's two-headed dog in the rotation is on his way to professional baseball as well. Overton battled through a forearm strain to polish off a 9-3 year with a 3.02 ERA. He fanned 79 and walked only 23 in 2013.

First baseman Matt Oberste—OU's club leader in virtually every hitting category pounded out 11 homers and swung for average, too, finishing .373. He ripped 19 doubles and four triples on his way to 60 RBI. Oberste slugged .622 this season.

Center fielder Max White—When Aikin went to left, White shifted back to his natural spot in center. And he fit in quite nicely with the position move as well. White's presence also picked up at the plate, where he banged out 12 doubles and 33 RBI with a .310 average.

Head coach Sunny Golloway—Not too many saw this coming after yet another successful season, but the Sooners will be looking for a new skipper in 2014. Golloway accepted the head coaching position at Auburn for more than twice the salary. In his time at OU, he compiled a 346-181-1 (.656) mark.

Why to believe OU will excel:

OU has talented youth returning in the form of the three mentioned above, and the program has sustained success for quite some time. It has been a consistent player, with NCAA Tournament berths nine of the last 10 seasons and 10 total College World Series appearances. A breath of fresh air might actually help, too.

Why to believe OU will struggle:

Losing a skipper that has commanded it to Super Regional appearances three out of the last four seasons and a top three draft pick as well is a good place to start. Throw in all the other position players who won't return in addition to the coaching uncertainty, and it's easy to see why 2014 could be a down year. There are many question marks and who athletic director Joe Castiglione will fill the coaching vacancy with is only the first of those.

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