BASEBALL: Dawg day afternoon for Heritage's Cole Wilcox

Among those on hand at the Heritage High School theater to watch senior Cole Wilcox (second from left) sign on to play baseball at the University of Georgia were Lee, Sandy and Maggie Wilcox. (Photo by Scott Herpst)

Arguably the most decorated high school baseball player to come out of Catoosa County - and still with one more season to play - Cole Wilcox made his college choice official on Wednesday as he signed with the University of Georgia in front of friends and family in the school's theater.

"It's always kind of felt official because I've never really wanted to go anywhere else," said Wilcox, decked out with a Georgia bow tie and slacks. "It's my dream school and it always has been. It's good to finally sign my letter and know that it is finally official."

Wilcox would join former Gordon Lee standouts Tucker Bradley and Chaney Rogers, who are already in Athens.

"I love it down there," Wilcox added. "I've been going to games (there) since I was five years old, so when they offered it was a no-brainer. I love the coaches and I love the direction the program is headed. The classes in front of me are good and Tucker and Chaney are already there, so hopefully I can come in and make an impact as soon as I get there."

Last season's stats only begin to scratch the surface of Wilcox's accomplishments as he helped guide the Generals to their first-ever appearance in the Class AAAA Final Four last spring, on the mound and at the plate.

The Region 6-AAAA Pitcher of the Year and an All-State selection in 2016, he followed up with a outstanding junior campaign, batting .339 in 39 games with three homers and 41 RBIs. On the hill, he was 9-3 with 70 strikeouts in 64 innings pitched with a 2.40 ERA. Those numbers earned him another Region Pitcher of the Year award and an other All-State nod.

But it was over this past summer that he cemented his place as one of the nation's elite talents.

With a fastball topping out in the high 90's, he was selected to play in the Under Armour All-American at Wrigley Field in Chicago and later played in the Perfect Game All-American Game at San Diego's Petco Park. He was invited to tryout for USA Baseball's 18U National Team and was ultimately named to the 20-man roster.

After playing exhibition games at Target Field in Minneapolis, he and Team USA traveled to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada where they went 9-0 to win the World Cup. Wilcox appeared in three games and got a start against Cuba, throwing seven scoreless innings a win.

For the tournament, he was 1-0 with three hits allowed and seven strikeouts in eight innings. Opponents batted just .111 against him and he had a 0.00 ERA.

Not surprisingly, he has already been tabbed as a pre-season All-State selection.

Heritage head baseball coach Eric Beagles called Wilcox perhaps the most competitive player he's had in his nearly three decades as a coach.

"Anytime you get tabbed as one of the 20 best players in the country and be able to represent your country on a national team, that kind of speaks for itself," he said. "That's a big measuring stick to have to live up to, but he does. He's been a great leader for us and obviously everybody knows what he does on the field.

"But it's what he does with at this school, in the hallways and everywhere else is, that makes him so elite as a person. People recognize that and know that about him and he's reaping the benefits of that. He's puts in a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment and his parents have done a great job of raising him. We're just fortunate here to be a part of it."

Of course, Wilcox may have a big decision to make on his future before he gets to Athens.

Pro scouts have been keeping a close eye on Wilcox for several years now and he is projected by some to be a first-round pick in June's Major League Baseball amateur draft. Baseball America currently has Wilcox ranked 13th among 2018 high school draft prospects and their October mock draft has Wilcox going No. 24 overall to the Chicago Cubs.

However, Wilcox said he'll cross that bridge if and when he gets to it.

"Right now, I just want to enjoy my senior year and just focus on winning," he added. "When that time comes, we'll see. Right now, I know I have a scholarship waiting on me and that's all I have to bank on."

Wilcox, an outstanding student, said he is considering majoring in accounting or engineering in college.