CA star plays again on national stageBy JOSHUA CAMPBELL,
Columbia Academy senior Slade Wilks had his second dream come true Sunday at Petco Park in San Diego.
The Southern Miss commit played in his second All-American game, the Perfect Game All-American Classic, of the summer at the home of the Padres. Wilks started in left field and batted cleanup for the West squad that won 4-2 and went 0-for-1 with a strikeout and a walk. The game was broadcast live on MLB Network and featured 50 of the top players in the country.
In Wilks’ first plate appearance, left-hander Nate Savino got Wilks swinging on a pair of breaking balls that started behind Wilks’ front hip and broke over the outside part of the plate at 80 miles per hour following a 94 mph fastball to begin the at-bat.
“That was, from the left side, definitely the best pitcher I’ve ever faced being left-handed,” Wilks said. “I’ve never seen anything like that. I wasn’t mad at myself. He’s really good.”
When Wilks came up in the bottom of the fifth inning with a man on second base, he got a 93 mph center-cut fastball that he pulled down the line that would’ve been extra bases, but it just went foul. He then laid off three straight balls to draw a walk.
“I talked to the umpire and I actually saw where the ball’s skid mark was. I was about an inch and a half from having me a nice double, but that’s just the way it works unfortunately,” he said.
Wilks said it was different being out on the West Coast and that Petco Park was really nice and upscale.
His favorite part of the trip, though, was visiting Rady Children’s Hospital. Wilks helped raise money for the hospital and met with young cancer patients.
“I got to hang out with them, and that was real special and neat,” he said.
Wilks said playing in the two All-American games allowed him the opportunity to compare his skills against the other top players in the country.
“I’ve been really blessed to be able to participate in such awesome events, and it kind of showed me how I stack up compared to other people my age, some things I do good and also some things I need to work on in order to be my best self and hopefully eventually be the best in my class,” he said.
Wilks said he feels like his bat is ready in all aspects but that he needs to work on being a better-rounded outfielder. He said he could stand to improve his arm strength and getting more reps in the outfield would help. He’s played shortstop the past two seasons at CA after spending his freshman season in left field and could play center field this year.
Perfect Game’s scouting report on Wilks says he’s “Extra big and strong athletic build, pretty mature physically. Left handed hitter, hits from an open stance with a deep hand load, swings hard and swings with intent and hits the ball out front, has lift in his swing, can hit the ball as hard and loud as any player in the 2020 class, top of the scale power potential.”
Heading into his final year with the Cougars, Wilks has a school record 44 home runs. However, there’s still one record on his mind. He’s tied with his cousin, Luke McKenzie, who recently signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, for the most home runs in a single season with 15 and wants to sit atop the list at season’s end.
Pictured Above: Columbia Academy slugger Slade Wilks at bat in the Perfect Game All-American Classic Sunday. | Photo Submitted