Turks’ Embler Calms Down, Ups Batting Average To Top Of League

By Josh Walfish
Daily News Record

HARRISONBURG – Austin Embler knew exactly what was ahead of him this summer.

After batting .246 during his first season in Harrisonburg last year, Embler returned to the Turks a different player. After putting too much pressure on himself in 2017, Embler said he’s more calm this summer, and it’s showing on the field.

Embler entered Wednesday’s game against New Market leading the Valley League in hitting with a .435 average and leads Harrisonburg with 11 RBIs.

“I kind of expected the same talent and the same pitching, so I prepared myself to know what to expect and know what kind of arms I’m going to be facing,” Embler said before Wednesday’s game at Veterans Memorial Park. “I played last summer, I kind of pressed myself a little harder; I’m more relaxed this summer, so that’s helped me a lot, too.”

His relaxed nature at the plate has been noticed by Harrisonburg shortstop Grant Van Scoy. The Illinois senior said he appreciated how Embler has gone about his business at the plate and how consistent he has been.

“He’s been really fun to watch,” Van Scoy said. “What really impressed me is he always stays really simple. He has a quiet swing and doesn’t try to do too much and he always hits the ball hard.”

The consistency with which Embler puts a bat to the ball was one of the first things Turks Skipper Bob Wease pointed out when he explained Embler’s success at the plate. Embler has struck out just seven times in 13 games this season, forcing the defense to deal with his speed when he makes contact with pitches.

Wease said Embler’s consistent contact, speed and strong defense make him the exact type of player he recruits to the Turks each season.

“He always puts the ball in play he can run, he plays great defense,” Wease said. “I just love him as a ballplayer, he’s my kind of guy. He’s the type of guy that likes to hustle and puts the ball in play and he does all of the above.”

This summer’s success has been a continuation of his 2018 season at UNC-Greensboro, where he just finished his junior season. He was a first-team All-Southern Conference pick at second base after hitting .357 with 15 doubles and 32 RBIs while drawing a team-high 30 walks.

Embler said the positive feelings from a strong college season carry over into summer league action and have helped him start the season as well as he has for the Turks.

“Just confidence,” Embler said. “Coming out of the season that I did have and then coming here and having that same confidence, that same approach I did with hitting, that’s basically what I did and that’s helped me so far this summer.”

Embler’s mental approach at the plate is simple, but it has been extremely effective for him. He said he’s looking for just one pitch until he picks up a second strike, and fortunately for him, he likes the pitches he has seen this summer.

“I’m just sticking to my approach that I’ve stuck with since last spring,” Embler said. “I’m just looking for a good fastball to hit and laying off all offspeed pitches until I get two strikes.”

Harrisonburg leads the Valley League with seven triples, including a league-high two from Embler. However, the Turks have hit just two home runs, tied for the fewest in the Valley with Charlottesville.

As a team, Harrisonburg is hitting .259, good for fifth in the 11-team league, but the Turks’ 154 hits are second-most in the Valley. They have three hitters in the top 20 of the league, joining New Market and Staunton.

Yet, the Turks are the only one of those three teams over .500, a credit to not the timing of their hits as much as the quantity of them.

“For the most part, we’ve just been having really timely hits,” Van Scoy said. “We have people get on base and then geople getting hits at the right time, clutch at-bats, good team at-bats, and we’re just executing at the right time.”

** Photo by Daniel Lin/DNR