University of Louisville center fielder Adam Engel is among the key members for the 4th-ranked Cardinal baseball squad and the programs goal of reaching the College World Series in June.
The junior from Loveland, Ohio returns following a sophomore season that saw him earn All-Big East second team honors after hitting .308, stealing 37 bases in 39 attempts and scoring 43 runs.
His 37 base thefts ranked fifth nationally in 2012 and was the second highest single season effort in school history, while his 53 career steals ranks fifth in the program’s history. Due to his impressive numbers, U of L head coach Dan McDonnell compared Engel to former Cardinal Boomer Whiting, who holds the school mark with 73 career stolen bases and helped lead Louisville to the 2007 College World Series.
“Adam is our Boomer Whiting.” said McDonnell. “The thing about Adam. There’s two categories that make the offensive player special and I think we all understand the homerun. It’s on TV every night, the homeruns are the highlights, because a guy can hit the ball and then jog around the bases. Nobody has to help him cross the plate. The guy who steals bases is as close to that as anybody else, because you don’t have to sacrifice him to second or third - you don’t have to try to move him over. However he gets on base, he can steal second or third, so now all you need is a ground ball or fly ball - you don’t really need another hit - to score that run.
Engle, who clocked a 6.4 60-yard time during fall workouts, provides additional strength to a Louisville offense that is expected to among the nation‘s best in 2013.
“He becomes very valuable to your offense when he’s able to do that,” McDonnell continued. “He has great instincts, and like Boomer, he wants to run. If anything, I probably have to slow him down a little bit at times. I don’t want to say he’s the Russ Smith of our team, and we love Russ because he can score and we respect that because it’s not easy. Adam is like that. He’s just wanting to run, run, run, every time he gets on, so we need to be smart with him and make sure we utilize him in the best possible way.”
His speed also makes him equally as effective manning center field for the Cardinals. He’s able to cover a lot of ground and has already made a number of highlight real catches during his career (see video below).
“Defensively, wow! He catches everything,” McDonnell said. “We had a lot of scouts at the scrimmages this weekend and because of the construction they have been floating around the dug outs and home plate. He made a long catch this weekend and I heard a scout say, man that guy catches everything.”
Engel, who was selected as one of three team captains for the upcoming season, believes that an improved defense is vital for the Cardinals to have the type of success that the team is aiming for this season.
“I think that if we do what we are capable of doing we should be a top team all year,” he said. “We have a lot of older guys and we know what we need to do to have success. One of the biggest things for us as a team is to play defense. We have a great offense and we have a great pitching staff.”
“We have the capability to play defense at an extremely high level, at a championship level, but we have to do it. That’s the thing, we have to have that day in and day out focus to play that high level defense that we are capable of playing.”
His play at the plate and in the outfield has also attracted the attention of multiple Major League Baseball scouts. He’s been mentioned as a potential early round draft choice and was listed among the top professional prospects following a summer in the Cape Cod League.
“We have a lot of guys that are draft eligible this year and a lot of teams are considering taking them in the draft and I feel like that’s a good problem to have,” said Engel during the team‘s media day. “That means we should have a pretty good ball club this year, or hopefully, if we all live to up expectations.”
“[Coach McDonnell] has talked to all of us about it and pretty much told us not to think much about it and think about now - live in the now,” Engel explained. “Personally, I try not to think about it at all. I want to be here with my teammates now, enjoy every day and work to get better every day. If we take care of business like we should this year and play the way that we are capable of, then everything else will fall into place. I try not to worry about it or think about it.”
The Cardinals open their season on Friday evening when they face Indiana in the Big East/Big Ten Challenge in Dunedin, Florida. Louisville will play South Florida on Saturday and then Purdue on Sunday before returning home.
Louisville will host Eastern Kentucky for the team’s home opener on Wednesday, February 20 at newly renovated and expanded Jim Patterson Stadium.
Sean Moth with the call...