WILSON CAPS OFF HISTORIC CAREER AT GEORGIA
Updated: Jun 30, 2018
It was the bottom of the seventh inning. Georgia was down by one against Purdue. Paige Wilson stepped up to bat with teammate Samantha LaZear on base. She drilled a walk-off home run, which gave the Bulldogs a 3-2 win over the Boilermakers. It is the play that Paige Wilson will remember for the rest of her life.
"I was zero for three at that time, there were two outs, and we were down," said Wilson. "It feels good to have your hit win the game."
Red, as she is known to her teammates, prepares to wrap up her stellar career this season as a shortstop and third baseman at Georgia. Not only will she walk away having helped Georgia earn its first SEC tournament championship, but also her demeanor will have made a lasting impact on her coaches and teammates.
Wilson has been playing softball since she was four years old. Both of her older siblings, Howie and Jessi, played ball, and she would always go to their games to cheer them on.
"I just liked watching them," said Wilson. "You always want to be like your older brother and sister, so that's really what inspired me to play."
Wilson lettered in softball all four years at Wheaton North High School, in Illinois, where she earned All-Conference honors every year and finished her career with a program record 174 hits. She also played travel softball for the Illinois Chill.
Wilson's older sister, Jessi, was a catcher at York College of Nebraska. Although she plays a different position from Wilson, Jessi was her role model growing up.
"I always wanted to be like her," said Wilson. "She was a really good hitter. I wanted to hit just like her, and be like her."
Like her sister, Wilson wanted to play softball in college. She dreamed of playing for a big school far from home with a well-known, prestigious softball program. She was only a sophomore in high school when she verbally committed to play for the University of Georgia.
"They started recruiting me, and I watched them on TV," said Wilson. "When I visited, I fell in love."
Having played in 232 games over the past four years, Wilson has started every single one of them for the Bulldogs at either shortstop or third base. She helped Georgia win its first SEC tournament championship last year. This year, she was selected to attend the USA Softball Women's National Team Selection Camp alongside teammates Alex Hugo and Chelsea Wilkinson. Each year, she was named to an NFCA All-Region Team, the All-SEC Team, and the SEC All-Tournament Team.
So far this season, her batting average is .410. She has scored 39 runs and batted in 53 runs. She also is a reliable fielder, with 70 assists and 51 putouts.
"She's just a phenomenal shortstop and a clutch hitter," said head coach Lu Harris-Champer. "Great on defense and when the game is on the line, you can count on Red to get that hit up the middle to score the runs."
Her exhaustive list of on-field accomplishments is not the only thing Paige Wilson will be remembered by at Georgia. Besides being a standout athlete, Wilson exemplifies leadership and character that cannot be replicated. She contributes so much more than just runs on the scoreboard.
"Her heart and soul defines her," said Harris-Champer. "She comes to play the game and leads by example. She just brings a backbone that is second to none to lead our team on the field. She's an incredibly reliable player."
Wilson always has a positive attitude and is known for her level-head, on and off the field. She does not succomb to adversity and has a smile on her face every day. Her teammates look up to her and admire her selfless and uplifting spirit. This senior athlete truly embodies what it means to be a leader.
"I think she's shown me how easy it is to just put the team before yourself," said fellow infielder Alex Hugo. "Just watching her and how she plays and acts, she always puts the team first. And she's a really good role model to a lot of people, and it's been a great experience playing with her for the past two years."
Although she will not be graduating until spring 2016, this is her last season as a member of the Georgia softball team. She will be greatly missed by her coaches and teammates.
"I don't think you can replace her," Hugo commented, looking ahead to next year. "It's going to be extremely hard to find someone who makes the plays she does but also have the attitude that she does, being such a positive teammate."
Wilson is not ready to let go of softball just yet. After taking a year off to complete her studies at UGA, she aspires to make and thrive on a professional roster. If her success at UGA is any indication, she can look forward to a prosperous pro career.
Apart from softball, Wilson is pursuing other dreams. Her major is management, and she hopes to franchise and open a restaurant from the midwest called Portillo's here in Athens, Georgia someday.
To see Wilson play before her time is up, head out to Jack Turner Stadium for Georgia's softball series versus Florida this weekend.
-- The Grady Sports Bureau is part of the sports media program at the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.