Veneklasen sets HR record in much-needed sweep

Veneklasen sets HR record in much-needed sweep
Source: AP Graphic

Provided by Wayland Baptist Athletics

Gregg Veneklasen became Wayland Baptist's career home runs leader, and the No. 12 Pioneers picked up a pair of much-needed wins over Jarvis Christian on Tuesday afternoon at Wilder Field, 8-1 and 15-3.

Wayland was enjoying one of the best starts to a season in school history at 14-1. The Pioneers were ranked 12th in the NAIA, having been ranked higher in only two other seasons.

But the Pioneers had slumped of late, dropping eight of their last 12 including their last three three-game series. On top of that, Wayland fell from 12th to 23rd in the NAIA Top 25 which was released during the doubleheader (see poll below),

Jarvis (14-17) was just what the doctor ordered as the Pioneers put together back-to-back solid non-conference performances.

Veneklasen was a big reason why.

The senior third basemen went into the day tied for the most all-time home runs in school history with Kevin Hennessey, who hit 44 during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Veneklasen wound up going deep twice during game two, first breaking the record with a two-run shot to left field in the fourth inning then, an inning later, adding to it with a grand slam to left-center.

After hitting five home runs his freshman season in 2013 and 14 each of the last two seasons, Veneklasen already stands at 13 this season with 20 scheduled games to go. (Hennessey holds the single-game record with 24 homers in 2010.)

Veneklasen's were two of Wayland's six homers on the day. Nick Rucker and Brendon Foust both went yard in the opener, while Paxton Covel and Matt Flores joined the parade in game two.

Ten different Pioneers combined for Wayland's 18 combined hits: eight in the first game and 10 in the second. Austin Moya finished 3-for-6 and scored five runs, Veneklasen was 3-for-6 with seven RBIs and four runs, Nick Rucker was 3-for-7 with four RBIs and two runs, and Foust was 3-for-7 with five RBIs and two runs.

Game 1 starter Tanner Solomon turned in the pitching highlight as he gave up just one run on five hits with one walk and one strikeout in improving to 3-0. Tristen Hefner threw the last two and allowed a hit and two walks with three Ks.

Five pitchers combined on a four-hitter in the second game with another freshman starter, Deric Trevino, earning the win by giving up one run on one hit with three walks and a strikeout over three innings. The four C's – Caleb Swofford, Chase Jones, Chris Lacher and Carlos Dominguez – threw an inning apiece.

Wayland returns to Sooner Athletic Conference play this weekend in Oklahoma City where the Pioneers take on MidAmerica Christian in a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. Friday then a single game at noon Saturday. The Pioneers and Evangels (21-10) go into the series tied for fifth place in the league standings at 8-4.