BYU baseball: Poulson serves as BYU's stopper
When it comes to pitching staffs, it's all about strength, depth and diversity. The best teams have a crew that can play to the strengths, or weaknesses, of any team on any day.
Still, the BYU baseball team knows the answer is simple when it needs to keep a hitter at bay.
It's Desmond Poulson.
"Desmond throws strikes," fellow pitcher Adam Smith said. "When we want a quality start, he's the guy."
Poulson, a junior who graduated from Cottonwood High, did just that against Creighton over the weekend, allowing just three earned runs to help the Cougars win two of three games on the road.
But even with an ERA of just 1.32 through three starts, including games against Northern Colorado and Creighton where he didn't allow a run, and a career ERA of 3.62, Poulson isn't satisfied.
"It isn't where I want to be, and it's not where I want the team to be," he said. "I'm going to do everything I can to make sure we're the team winning three games a weekend, not one or two."
BYU baseball is coming to expect nothing less.
After an off-and-on 2012 season, the Cougars are recharged with a new coaching staff that moved to Provo from Dixie State College and a new winning mentality.
BYU turned heads by beating LSU, then ranked the No. 2 team in the country, on Feb. 23.
"That game really turned things around for us," Smith said. "[Their coach] said we were a team to watch. It was a big confidence boost for everyone."
The Cougars have dropped only one game since then.
"And it's a game we should have won," Poulson said.
Still, they know months of work lie ahead.
Leading the effort is the Cougars' string of 10 pitchers a small staff compared with most Division I programs.
"We've dealt with some injuries and people leaving the team for missions or the draft," Smith said. "But we've all really come together and complement each other."
For Poulson, that meant packing 28 pounds onto his self-described "scrawny" frame.
"I just didn't have the kind of presence on the mound that I wanted to," he said. "It's just helped me stay behind everything and get a lot more velocity behind my pitch."
Though he's back to throwing fastballs in the low to mid-90 mph range, Smith also found returning to form after an LDS mission a bit more difficult than expected.
"I was there from the mental standpoint, but physically it was a bit more tiring and frustrating," he said.
Poulson and Smith credit their new coach, Jeremy Thomas, for their solid arms, and those of the rest of their crew.
"He's made sure everyone understands their role on the staff," Smith said.
"It was a big change for everyone, but we got through it and it couldn't be going better," Poulson said.