Key's Engel voices team's needs on the field

Brunswick was in the middle of a three-run third inning last Thursday when a batter popped a foul ball along the left side.

Francis Scott Key senior pitcher John Engel loudly directed his third baseman, Matt Haines: "Got room, got room!"


The ball landed on top of the visitors' dugout, clearly out of the reach of Haines.

"Come on, you gotta get up there and get that one," Engel said, at first appearing serious before reassuring Haines with a smile.


It was John Engel being John Engel. Whether it be soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter or baseball in the spring, Engel is a player to be heard.

Opponents may perceive Engel as being cocky. Key baseball coach Bob Caples calls him aggressively confident.

Engel himself simply says he's the "guy with the big mouth.

"One of my bigger traits is my big mouth," he said.

"It's been a lot more evident this year as a senior. It's kind of my job to try to keep everything positive and all our players psyched up."

The Key baseball team is 2-2 on the season. When Engel's not on the mound as the Eagles' No. 2 pitcher, he's playing shortstop and batting third in the lineup.

He has enjoyed his playing days at Key, Carroll County's smallest school. He says everyone's your best friend and teammates are like family.

He says he's partial to soccer and baseball, but later adds his favorite sport is whatever is in season.


Now his mind is on baseball.

"Basically, I'd like us to go out with a bang," Engel said.

"I want to win regionals. On paper, we have what it takes but we have to do it on the playing field."

"We have a solid nucleus with some young players. We're working hard and things are coming around."

Last fall, he helped lead the Eagles' soccer team into the state playoffs after two straight upset wins over higher seeds in the region playoffs. He was named an All-County goalie.

"There's a great sense of pride beating someone you shouldn't," Engel said.


The turning point of the soccer season came midway through when the Eagles were trailing visiting Catoctin, 1-0.

Key needed every win it could get just to qualify for the region playoffs. When the Eagles were awarded a penalty kick with just over eight minutes left, coach Gee Hibberd looked to Engel -- his goalie -- to take the penalty kick.

"I found the left side. It was a big turning point and a definite highlight. Mike Locklear scored later in regulation and we won 2-1," Engel said.

Last week in the Brunswick baseball game, Engel was at shortstop with fellow senior Jason Smith on the mound. Brunswick was leading, 4-0. It was the third game of the week for the Eagles and Smith, who having pitched earlier in the week, had a sore arm.

Engel called time out to talk to Smith.

"I know Jason real well and could tell he was hurting," Engel said.


"I just told him we're going to need him a lot longer than this game. Jason hates coming out of games, but I told him to let some of the rookies get some time."

Said Caples: "John's a born leader. In my entire coaching career, he's the closest thing to a coach on the field I've ever seen. He's very vocal and a positive influence, particularly with our younger players."

Engel adds much more to the team than just his ability to motivate others.

"He's a solid all-around athlete who knows his abilities and gets the most out of them," Caples said.