Once Natalie Wilks received an offer from Three Rivers to continue her career at the juco level, the Lady Raiders’ coaches told her they will give her every opportunity to pitch and hit.
“As they should,” Sparta coach Troy McPherson said.
Wilks’ numbers in Sparta’s 25-4 season are just as awesome in the batter’s box as they are in the center circle, actually perhaps even more so.
The senior left-hander enters tonight's District final at Forsyrh hitting .530, with seven home runs and 56 RBIs. Of her 44 hits, an absolutely incredible 32 have been for extra bases. She has a 1.145 slugging percentage.
As for her pitching, she owns an 18-3 W-L record and has 197 strikeouts and 17 walks over 120.2 innings.
Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see what route Wilks’ juco and college careers will take. One would not necessarily be wrong to predict she may have more upside as a hitter.
“If I stay focused in college and work my butt off, I can do whatever I want,” Wilks said. “I feel like I can be big enough maybe for (NCAA) D-I. I will need to keep my head on straight and work on everything. Pitching has always been my thing. I don’t think I would ever not pitch at the college level. There could be way more improvement (as a hitter). Once I go to Three Rivers, they are such a good hitting team that my hitting might even be better (than my pitching).”
"She is as capable an athlete as I’ve ever coached. No matter what she is doing, pitching or hitting, she is going to be phenomenal,” McPherson said. “College coaches are going to push her. She has phenomenal upside. She can mash the ball and go the opposite way.”
Wilks takes pride in defying the stereotype that pitchers can’t hit. She often fills in for new teams during travel ball that know of her reputation as a pitcher, but not as a hitter.
“Normally, they say, ‘Well, do you hit?’” Wilks said. “They will put me in the nine-hole. Then, I will get three hits and all of a sudden I’m up to the three-hole.
“(People) overlook hitting from a pitcher,” she added. “They think (pitchers) can’t hit or can’t run. But pitchers are (sometimes) the most athletic people out there.”