Ansley Phillips is a winner.
Her Southern Force travel team finished third in the nation this summer. She’s been a part of two region championships and two runner-ups, and she is a two-time Region 4-A Player of the Year. And on a different note, she was voted homecoming queen this fall.
Her dream to play college softball came to fruition Friday when she signed with Peach Belt Conference power North Georgia.
The Saints have won the PBC and reached the College World Series the last three years.
“I’m very excited,” said Phillips. “They have a really good softball program. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about deciding which college anymore. It was not a hard decision. I kind of knew right away.”
Phillips said some of her Southern Force teammates were going to Georgia, Georgia Southern and Illinois State. She hoped she could make a splash as well. Phillips chose North Georgia over Southern, Armstrong Atlantic and Lee University.
Saints coach Mike Davenport said Phillips’ name kept coming up in recruiting talks, mainly for her bat.
She hit better than .700 for more than half of this season before finishing at .621. She had 28 RBI, 14 doubles and five home runs. She didn’t strike out one time.
A four-year starter, Phillips’ batting average improved every year. She batted .386 with a freshman and finished with a career average of .492. She went out with 45 doubles, six triples, 21 home runs, 141 RBI and a slugging percentage of .786.
“As coaches, we like players who can swing the bat,” said Davenport. “Ansley’s got the ability to put the bat on the ball and make things happen. And one of her biggest assets is her ability to play multiple positions. At the Division II level, that’s important. We’re looking for kids to come in and fill more than one role.”
Phillips has been a mainstay at third base, but can also play the outfield. She’s used to being the center of attention in the third spot of the lineup, striking fear into opposing coaches.
But she realizes she will be right back where she was as a freshman when she steps on campus.
“I know I’ll be a young freshman coming in for a good softball team at a four-year school,” said Phillips. “I’m used to being a leader around here, and maybe someone else will be the leader, and I’ll work my way up.”
That’s exactly what she did four seasons ago when she made her first start for the varsity team. Phillips said she remembers her feelings very vividly.
“I was very nervous and didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I was starting with all these older girls, and I kind of wanted to make a good impression for my first game.”
Phillips made a big impression with Schley coach Brandy Conner, as well as the rest of the region.
”Ansley looked like a natural athlete,” said Conner. “She had a great attitude, good work ethics and always gave her best.”
Phillips was voted the region’s player of the year as a sophomore, but Taylor County’s Savannah Sloan received the honor last season. Disappointed she didn’t get the award, Phillips knew another chance was yet to come.
“I knew Savannah, and she was good and did deserve it,” said Phillips. “It was her senior year, and she did play hard and had some of her stats that were a little higher than mine. I knew my next year would come, and I’d have to step up and prove that I deserved it. I kind of wanted to get it, of course, all the rest of the three years after my freshman year, but I was happy for her. I was like if I got it my sophomore year, I can definitely get it my senior year.”
Taylor County coach Will Harris said she was a batter everybody in the region feared.
“She’s one of those that comes along once every now and then,” he said. “She’s not just a heck of a ball player, but I sensed she respected the game. I know when we had pre-game meetings and talked about how to pitch and defend folks, she was normally the one we discussed about. When she came to the plate, if you were not careful, she’d make something happen. I know Coach Conner will mist having her, but I will not miss having to pitch to her.”
Phillips made batting look easy. She said trying to become the leader that was needed for her teammates was possibly her biggest challenge.
“I normally lead by actions,” she said. “I kind of thought my priority was to lead Schley County and be a good role model for the girls. I knew I needed to step up and make a good impression for the younger ones so they knew they could do it, too.”
Phillips was able to make a big difference with freshman pitcher Emily Hittinger. Having limited starts, Hittinger was called on in the first round of the Class A playoffs to take over the pitching duties for an injured Jessie Eason.
Schley lost the first game, but rallied to win the second and third games. Phillips played a big part in keeping Hittinger up and encouraged.
“I think Ansley is someone that Emily looked up to, and to have her support really helped calm Emily,” said Conner. “And seeing that a senior had confidence in her abilities, I’m sure that helped her, too.”
Hittinger was in a lot of pressure situations during the playoffs, but Phillips felt pressure, too. She faced it by just staying focused and wasn’t rattled.
“There was a lot of pressure during games, but most of the time home games,” she said. “People would be like, ‘hit a home run.’ They’d think that all the time. Home runs were just out of the blue for me. Whenever I walked up to bat, especially with runners on and we need to score, I just thought my job was to step up and get a base hit and if I do get a home run, it happens.”
Phillips could be on the national stage once again before her career is over. North Georgia has three starters graduating, and Davenport said the hardest workers will get the starting slots.
“We give all kids an equal opportunity,” he said. “The ones that swing the bat find themselves in the lineup, and she has the potential to do that for herself.
“Ansley has competed at the highest level with travel ball, and she’s put up numbers through her high school career. The numbers don’t lie. She’s a very heady hitter, a smart hitter. The pitchers do all the work, and if they make a mistake, Ansley can do some damage. She’s been successful on so many levels, and she’s been on many winning teams. It’s appealing to us coming in because she’s a proven winner.”
Ansley Phillips is a winner.
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