The Freshman Athlete of the Year in 2016 in his first year playing at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Arizona, Eli Ankeney was a four-year letter winner who helped lead the Thunder to the playoffs in 2019, his senior year. Over the course of his four years there, the left-hander posted a 3.85 ERA in 123.2 innings, allowing 136 hits, walking 58, and striking out 152. In 2018, his junior season, the southpaw posted a 3.60 ERA in 48.2 innings with 52 hits allowed, 25 walks, and 63 strikeouts, and in 2019, his senior year, he posted a 3.87 ERA in 50.2 innings with 55 hits allowed, 22 walks, and 69 strikeouts. In addition to his ability on the mound, Ankeney hit .346/.442/.602 in 156 at-bats. His grandfather, Gary Fite, played baseball and basketball at Loyola Marymount University, but in the end, Ankeney decided to stay more local, attending Grand Canyon University.
The southpaw did not play in 2020, his freshman year, because of an injury, but healthy or injured, it really would not have mattered much as the NCAA cancelled the season early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He only appeared in a single game in 2021, throwing a perfect inning with one strikeout, but was able to pitch some supplementary innings with the Bend Elks of the West Coast League that summer. He returned to the Antelopes in 2022 and appeared in 29 games out of the bullpen and posted a 2.68 ERA in 40.1 innings, allowing 28 hits, walking 13, and striking out 61. After the season ended, he pitched a few more supplemental innings for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the MLB Draft League.
Ankeney throws from a high-three-quarters arm slot with a long action through the back and a bit of crossfire at times. His arm slot creates good downhill angle. His fastball sits in the high-80s-to-low-90s, generally topping out at 91 MPH with arm-side run. He pairs it with slider that sits in the high-70s that features big, sweepy break. He is able to command both pitches well and pounds the zone.