COVINGTON, Ga. — Whether it’s fielding fast ground balls at third or catching pitches behind the plate, Aaliyah Wilcox embraces her role as a Newton Lady Ram.
Though her primary position is as a catcher, there’s just something different about playing as a third baseman.
“I love being challenged. Third base is always like the hot spot. It’s always going to be a hot ball coming to you,” Wilcox said. “Knowing that I can tame that ball and still throw the fast runners out is great.”
Throwing someone out from third to first base gets Wilcox amped up right after. However, there is one thing about softball that only a catcher can experience.
That is throwing a base runner out on their attempt to steal.
“I have a dog mentality. When I throw somebody out like, ‘I did it.’ I always like to be a part of the plays. I hate just standing around,” Wilcox said. “Seeing the defense fired up when I make a play or being able to be the fire of my defense is amazing.”
Now thriving in the sport she enjoys playing is a far cry from where Wilcox began.
Wilcox was originally a cheerleader, then a gymnast and became involved in karate. At 7 years old, Wilcox gave softball a try. But it was an interesting way she landed on that decision.
“My mom told me I was too tall to be a cheerleader and a gymnast. I used to rough house with my brothers. So, she was like, ‘I need to put you in a sport where there’s no height limit or no way to be too aggressive. So you’re either going to do softball or wrestling,’” Wilcox said. “I was like, ‘I’ll do softball.’ I cried the first day, but it was OK.”
The softball experience only got better from that point on for Wilcox.
She continued playing with the Newton County Recreation Department and transitioned to playing travel ball. In that circuit, Wilcox has played 12U, 14U and 16U. Currently, she is a member of the Unity 18U Betsa/Hebert team.
Wilcox has been surrounded by sports her entire life, too.
Her mom ran track in high school, dad played football up to college, middle brother played football and baseball while her oldest brother played football.
[My focus is] being able to make a statement.Aaliyah Wilcox
Wilcox said she has always felt extra support from her family in her pursuit of a softball career.
Amid all of the travel ball, Wilcox began playing for the Liberty Middle School Lady Knights and then progressed to play at Newton High School.
She was thrown right in as a freshman playing on the varsity level. Throughout her time as a Newton Lady Ram, Wilcox believes her offense has improved the most.
“When I first came, I was scared. I was timid, because we were facing really good people in our region. I was nervous and thinking that I wasn’t good enough to play varsity level,” Wilcox said. “Then finally getting my confidence as a freshman playing against these girls, it’s nothing I can’t do. I definitely have the confidence that no one can outdo you if you have the mindset of nobody stopping you.”
In her junior season, Wilcox nearly batted .500 with a .498 average. Her performance earned her a spot on Region 4-AAAAAAA’s First Team as well.
Wilcox has excelled on the softball field while maintaining all A’s in every semester at Newton High.
Accomplishing that, along with the athletic success, has been important for her.
“I didn’t want to be a high school student just being in the classroom. Being able to say I was a student-athlete passing with straight A’s that was definitely something to motivate me,” Wilcox said. “‘You’re good enough to be on the field as well as balancing your grades in the classroom.’”
The Lady Rams have high hopes coming into a fresh season. It kicks off with a Aug. 3 scrimmage at Loganville followed by the season opener at Social Circle four days later.
Newton will field a younger team with many underclassmen featured on the roster. They have all been going through summer workouts in preparation for the year ahead.
As one of four seniors for this year’s squad, Wilcox has taken it upon herself to help show the freshmen and sophomores the ropes. From her own standpoint, Wilcox has set a specific goal of increasing her RBI percentage as well as recording at least an .800 fielding percentage.
No matter if it’s the team’s success or individual progression, Wilcox has one main mission in her last hurrah as a Lady Ram.
“[My focus is] being able to make a statement. Last year, it was really shaky where we couldn’t get that statement across to many people,” Wilcox said. “Individually, I want to prove that, ‘She’s good enough to be here as well as on the college level.’”