After a standout junior season, Lowell senior pitcher-shortstop Elijah Saunders knew he could take his game to another level.
“I knew I could work a little harder,” he said. “All I thought about in the offseason was baseball. I wanted to be the best I could be, and hopefully my best was better than everyone else’s.”
It has been and then some. The 6-foot, 175-pounder is having a season to remember — on the mound and at the plate. From Day 1, Saunders has been the best pitcher on a Lowell (22-4 overall, 12-0 Academic Athletic Association) team that entering Wednesday’s action had already clinched the A Division championship.
Saunders, who bats left-handed and throws right-handed, is 5-0 with a microscopic 0.66 ERA. Saunders has completed three of his four starts, including a no-hitter in an 11-0, mercy-rule win over Galileo on April 10. Saunders doesn’t consider himself a power pitcher, but he has 50 strikeouts in 32 innings pitched.
“I don’t throw my fastball that hard, but it has good movement,” Saunders said. “My slider is my best off-speed pitch, and my curve and change-up are more feel pitches. Some days they’re on, some days they’re not. When my curve and change-up are on, that’s when I’m at my best.”
Saunders has had all of his pitches working lately, and he’s been no less devastating at the plate. With a .413 batting average, 37 runs scored, 27 RBIs and a perfect 18-of-18 in steal attempts, Saunders has wreaked havoc on Lowell’s opponents in a variety of ways.
“Elijah has always been a top-notch player on our team, but he’s taken it beyond that this year,” Cardinals coach John Donohue said. “He hits well, pitches well and he’s been scooping up everything at shortstop.”
Saunders credited his teammates and coaches for his success, particularly Lowell pitching coach Emil DeAndreis, who has helped Saunders on and off the field. Saunders, who plans on playing on scholarship for a Division II program next year, admits he had plenty of growing up to do.
“No doubt about it, Emil gave me all the lessons I needed,” Saunders said. “I was always a quiet kid growing up, but I could get mad real quick on the baseball field. Whenever I stepped out of line, Emil would take me to the side, talked to me about it and let me know how he felt. The greatest challenge in my career has been adjusting my attitude and realizing that it’s an honor to be able to play baseball. I look at the game now and see it as a privilege.”