Walk-off homers give Pioneers two more wins

Walk-off homers give Pioneers two more wins

(KCBD) - Information provided by Wayland Baptist Athletics

After posting a pair of sweet, season-opening wins Friday over Sterling College, the Wayland Baptist Pioneers topped that by tallying two more thrilling victories – both in walk-off home run fashion – Saturday afternoon at Wilder Field.

In the first, pinch-hitter Devlin Smith delivered a solo homer for a 2-1 win, before in game two Nick Rucker followed Greg Veneklasen's dramatic, pinch-hit solo dinger with an incredible three-run blast that lifted Wayland to a 9-7 win, capping the season-opening weekend perfectly for the Pioneers.

The wins came on the heels of Friday night's walk-off, RBI-single by Paxton Covel in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 WBU win. The Pioneers knocked five home runs and took Friday's first game with ease, 13-5.

In the series finale, Wayland (4-0) trailed Sterling (0-4), 7-4, after the Warriors scored five runs in a miserable, three-error fifth-inning for Wayland. The Pioneers got one run back in the bottom of the frame on Rucker's two-out, RBI-double down the left field line that scored Austin Moya, who also doubled.

Following a scoreless sixth and after Wayland's Jonathan Frost struck out the side in the seventh, the Pioneers put together their most drama-filled inning of the weekend.

With the top of the order up, Veneklasen came to the plate with one out for his first appearance since leaving Saturday's first game with a minor injury suffered while hauling in a foul ball in the top of the sixth. After a first-pitch strike, Veneklasen let loose for his first home run of the young season.

That made it 7-6 and spelled the end for Sterling pitcher Dalton Laird, who gave way to Cristian Bracero. Moya greeted him with a two-strike single up the middle, and after Bryan Nunez walked on a seven-pitch at-bat, Rucker stepped to the plate. The count went to 2-2 before the junior designated hitter from Austin got his third hit of the day, a no-doubt home run to left that prompted a water bucket-dumping celebration at home plate.

Wayland's nine runs came from eight different players. Rucker finished with four RBI, while Yaniel Vargas and Moya had two hits apiece.

Frost earned the win, giving up just one hit and one unearned run while striking out six and walking one in 2 1/3 innings. Freshman Tanner Solomon of Phoenix started, allowing five hits and three walks but surrendering only one run with a pair of Ks in three innings. Another freshman, Bradden Kennard, pitched 1 2/3.

The first game was much more defensive-minded.

Sterling scored its lone run on a homer by the third batter of the game. That was the only major blip for Pioneer starter Jordie Henry, who after sitting out last year following shoulder surgery looked solid in three innings, allowing two other hits while striking out three and walking none.

Senior Matt Flores took over and pitched four shutout innings, giving up three hits while fanning six and walking just one.

At the plate, Wayland ended with nine hits against Sterling freshman Tyler Pfiefer, who went the distance for the Warriors, striking out one and walking none. The Pioneers managed just a pair of runs, but it was enough.

The first came in the third inning when Vargas, Moya and Veneklasen strung together back-to-back-to-back singles.

The scored stayed knotted at 1 until the seventh when Smith was inserted as a pinch hitter and came up huge for the Pioneers. In his first at-bat of the season, the junior from Temple worked the count to 2-2 then jumped on a pitch that he sent over the left-field fence.

Wayland's nine hits came from eight players with Nunez the only Pioneers with multiple hits.

WBU hits the road for the first time this season when they travel to Hawkins to take on Jarvis Christian in a doubleheader starting at noon Tuesday. The Pioneers are back home for a pair of doubleheaders against Peru State (Neb.) next weekend at 2 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday.