Harrisonburg, Va.--With Auburn looking for more power after hitting just 30 home runs in 63 games in 2017, getting junior college slugger Brendan Venter on campus will be a huge step in the right direction for Coach Butch Thompson’s club.
Hitting .353 with 15 home runs, 14 doubles and 69 RBI as a sophomore at McClennan (Tex.) Junior College, Venter backed up a big freshman year that saw him bat .385 with 15 home runs, 17 doubles and 69 RBI.
Capable of playing first base, third base or even the outfield, Venter is part of a class that has the makings of being a very good one for the Tigers with high school National Player of the Year Tanner Burns, fellow two-way player Cody Greenhill and big-time catcher prospect Steven Williams all headed to the Plains.
Watching closely as the Tigers exceeded expectations this past year and made a run in regional play, Venter said he is looking forward to enrolling at Auburn in August after playing in a summer league for the Harrisonburg Turks.
“It’s a great place," he said of Auburn. "We have a solid team and I’m just excited to get to work and hopefully go to Omaha and win it.
“Coming into the season I know a lot of people outside Auburn weren’t expecting them to have the year they had, but Coach Butch and the staff there have done a great job with them. The players have bought in. It’s going to be a great time. I’m definitely excited.”
While losing players is always expected from year to year, Auburn is dealing with a change on the coaching staff as well with assistant Brad Bohannon leaving to take the head coaching job at Alabama. Enter Karl Nonemaker.
A former standout at Vanderbilt and assistant at Auburn, Nonemaker has been at Old Dominion the last seven years, but kept in contact with Thompson after the two worked together while on the Plains. It didn’t take him long after being hired to hit the ground running and Venter said it has been fun to get to know the new coach.
“He actually gave me a call a few times and he’s gotten right to work,” Venter said. “The first day he was in the office he was trying to set up summer ball for me. I was close with Coach Bo and I’m happy for him at Alabama, but Coach Nonemaker has definitely done a lot in the little time he’s been there. It has been really exciting and I definitely appreciate that.”
This summer Venter is playing against guys who for the most part have already had a least a year of major college experience under their belts. For some junior college players that might be a huge step up, but Venter pointed out that facing the pitching he went against in Texas has him ready to go.
“A lot of the arms we faced this year were D1 arms,” he said. “I think I’m ready for it. Playing this summer and just seeing more pitchers and more pitches, it definitely makes you better as a ball player. I think I’ll be ready to go.”
Now with a summer to continue to improve his skills, Venter looks forward to competing with guys like Josh Anthony, Dylan Ingram and Conor Davis for playing time at either first base or third base or even giving the outfield a try.
Now matter which position he plays, the junior college slugger said he is prepared to do what it takes to get the job done. “I think every player should have the confidence to believe in their abilities and make an impact,” he said. “The coaches recruited me to hit in the middle of the order and hit for some power. I’m hoping the average is going to be there because I’m a big team guy.
“If I have to bunt or do this or that then I’m all for it and hopefully play some good defense, too. I just want to be the best I can be for the team.”