PROVO — The Portland Pilots flew into Miller Park Friday night and were unable to shake off the jet lag as the Cougars played the role of the patient host, withstanding early pressure and eventually pulling out an 11-7 win.
Desmond Poulson was in a groove early on, retiring the first five Pilots in order before a rare error at first base from Brock Whitney allowed the first base-runner of the game. Following a walk, Portland first baseman Brian Fratelli knocked in two RBIs to take a 2-0 lead.
The Cougars failed to capitalize in the bottom of the inning with the bases loaded and only one out. Despite Portland adding two more runs in the top of the third, BYU regrouped, something head coach Mike Littlewood has tapped into with this squad, and picked up six runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a four-run lead.
“We just had to keep persevering tonight, I think that would be the key word for the night, we persevered. We were pressing early and then you get down and you feel like — I told the guys tonight you can’t hit a five-run home-run. Just go up there and be patient. I thought Hayden Nielsen’s two-out RBI was the key of the game. If he doesn’t do that, we go flat again,” Littlewood said.
“Our whole thing (philosophy) is to stay even keel, don’t get too high on the highs and don’t get too low on the lows. There are so many games and so many innings and so many opportunities to face a lot of failure.”
The Cougars received word early Friday morning their ace was ready to go, at least according to Desmond Poulson. He was cleared by the trainers and that was enough for Littlewood.
“Even a 70 percent Desmond (Poulson) is as good as we’ve got,” Littlewood said. “It’s just his mentality, he’s not going to give in. He’s going to find a way to beat you, and when he got a couple of doubles on him, he just got this smile and it was like ‘OK, now I’m really going to bear down on you.’ You just love his attitude.”
The Cougars were without their offensive leader due to a suspension after being ejected in the previous game. BYU finished with 11 runs on 14 hits, filling in nicely for Jacob Hannemann.
“Jacob Brugmen is just as good a center fielder as Jacob Hannemann,” Littlewood said. “We almost have two center fielders when they’re both there, they can both cover a lot of ground. (Losing Hannemann) wasn’t too much of a thought defensively, just offensively. But everyone jumped in and we had a good night.”
Jonathan Boldt is a sports writing intern for the Deseret News covering the Utah Valley. He can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @jboldt24 - www.boldted.com