One of Pearland's biggest strengths turned into a liability midway through the playoffs and ultimately led to its undoing at the state baseball tournament.
The Pearland pitching staff was deep and talented, helping the Oilers win 37 games. A few times in the late rounds of the postseason, though, the players lost most of their command and made things dicey in several big spots.
It began in the third round against Clear Creek. The Oilers had to win the first game, 8-7, and then gave up eight runs in the second game that evened the series.
The final hiccup came in the Class 5A state semifinal against eventual champion Flower Mound. Five Pearland pitchers walked 12 batters and hit three more.
"It came up lately," coach Anthony Scalise said. "We pitched great pretty much all year. It seemed like about the third round of the playoffs some of our pichers just lost it. It's just something that kind of happens. Nothing you can really do about it. You hope they come out and they're commanding pitches. They just didn't."
Pearland was good enough anyway to eliminate Clear Creek and Brazoswood in the Region III-5A championship game. Several Oilers pitchers struggled early against Brazoswood before Brendan Owens came in and threw strikes to keep Brazoswood from scoring any more.
The good news for the Oilers is most of their talented pitchers return. Jake Crain (7-2) is the only senior among those who pitched most of the innings. Five players who won at least two decisions are eligible to come back next year.
Sophomore Brady Basso leads the way with his 9-1 record. Junior Stephen McBroom went 7-0, and junior Andreus Faltasek went 4-1. Owens and Casey Michna should be key cogs in the pitching staff next year, too.
The offense returns plenty, too. Though big-time players Connor Wong, Hayden Cole and Skylar Valentine will graduate, the lineup will have plenty of experience next year. Scalise said new players who could emerge with bigger roles next season are Ben Paddock and Seth Mikeska.
Pearland's mission will be the same - win the state championship. In the long run the Oilers, who once were ranked No. 2 in the nation, will view 2013 as a successful season. In the short term, however, they are not satisfied with just being at the state tournament.
They wanted to win it.
"The ones coming back, we want them to remember how this feels to lose," Scalise said. "Whether you're playing in the state tournament or your last game in district and you don't make the playoffs, it's never a good feeling."