COVINGTON, Ga. — Anslee Saunchegraw has filled multiple roles for the Eastside Lady Eagles in her three-year high school career. As a freshman, she played as a second baseman followed by being last year's shortstop.
In 2023, Saunchegraw transitioned to behind the plate — a position she did not see herself playing in high school.
“I came here my first two years and I played middle infield,” Saunchegraw said. “But my coaches believe in me and I just want to prove to them that, wherever they need me, I’ll give my 100 percent.”
Being a catcher was not foreign to Saunchegraw, though. She last played in that spot on one of her travel ball teams from eight to 11 years old.
From the beginning of the season, Saunchegraw has embraced the role.
“I always loved catching. I feel like I’m in charge of the field and play a big role. I’m going to give it my best and I’m going to do whatever I can to help my pitchers and help my defense get on the right track,” Saunchegraw said. “Before every at-bat, I try to tell the team where to be on bunts and talk up my pitcher, encouraging them. It’s really just me and them there during the game.”
Saunchegraw catches for both of the Lady Eagles’ pitchers: Dezaria “Z” Johnson and Eva Davis. Saunchegraw is glad to be catching for both of them instead of competing against them.
“Both of them are very good pitchers,” Saunchegraw said. “If I was a batter having to face them, it’s going to be very hard to win the at-bat.”
So far in this year, Saunchegraw has a .981 fielding percentage and has caught six baserunners stealing. She not only provides a boost on defense, but on offense as well.
At the plate, Saunchegraw is batting .400, a .468 on-base percentage and 13 RBIs.
When Saunchegraw is not making plays herself, though, she can be seen cheering her teammates on. That part of the game comes naturally for Saunchegraw. This year, however, the entire Lady Eagles squad began a new celebration.
After a big play is made, Eastside players will form the “Eagle pose.” The idea was adopted from outside of the Lady Eagles’ dugout.
“We had some opponents do it on us, so we kind of just ran with it,” Saunchegraw said.
All of Saunchegraw’s contributions have helped the Lady Eagles to a 13-4 overall record. They also sit atop the Region 8-AAAAA standings at 9-2.
Eastside has won 11 of its last 13 games, including the in-county sweep of Alcovy and Newton to claim the 2023 Newton Cup.
Nevertheless, Saunchegraw does not believe she and her teammates have played their best ball game yet.
“I’ve only been seeing this team go up,” Saunchegraw said. “We’ve had some bad innings, but this team has not only grown physically, but all together. We know the talent on this team and it's really based on us and how we use it. All of us want it real bad.”
The Lady Eagles’ 2023 success has seemed to carry over from their 2022 run.
After finishing as the No. 4 seed in Region 8-AAAAA, Eastside downed higher ranked opponents on its way to a top six finish at state.
As a result, the Lady Eagles got to experience what playing at the South Commons Complex in Columbus is like. Having played in those particular games has motivated Saunchegraw even more.
“It’s all I’ve been thinking about ever since Loganville beat us. I can’t wait,” Saunchegraw said. “It was a new experience for everyone. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It felt good. Obviously, there’s no guaranteed shot we have going to Columbus, but we’re going to do our best to get there and do our best to win it.”
Six games remain on the Lady Eagles’ regular season schedule. They played at Heritage on Sept. 25 then will travel to Jefferson on Thursday to face the Lady Dragons.
These games are the last round of Region 8-AAAAA matchups for the year.
From the start of the year to now, Saunchegraw has noticed her team making huge strides in their progression. By continuing that, she believes that the Lady Eagles can be a championship-contending squad.
“We’ve gotten better at focusing on that game. Playing it one game at a time. So, whatever happened in the last game, we’re not taking it into the next game. Mentally, we’ve become a lot stronger,” Saunchegraw said. “Everybody’s realizing we’re a team and, at the end of the day, we’re all each other have. The only people who are going to win a state championship are us.”