Tom Batters
Dunlap's Alan Jablonski led the Mid-Illini Conference with a .479 batting average, 56 hits and 39 runs scored.

The pitcher was ahead in the count, 0 and 2, after firing two strikes by Dunlap leadoff hitter Alan Jablonski.

Jablonski fouled off a few pitches and took a couple more for balls before drilling a single up the middle that nearly took the pitcher’s head off.

The at-bat was typical of his patience and smarts at the plate, said Dunlap coach Tom

Wooden, who called Jablonski the “spark” of the team’s offense.

“Alan is not afraid to get behind in the count,” Wooden said. “Even with two strikes, he is able to find a good pitch and drive it. He’s not a power hitter, but he’ll hit the ball hard somewhere.”

Jablonski, a junior, hit a Mid-Illini Conference-best .479 this spring. His 56 hits were by-far the most in the conference (no other player had more than 43 hits). He led the conference with 39 runs scored (tied with Washington’s Alex Wilson) and he stole 12 bases, which put him in the top five in the conference.

Jablonski politely declined to talk about his own stats, though. He said he would rather talk about the team.

“The team comes first,” he said. “I wish we could have won a few more games. We had a good team, with a lot of great players. We just didn’t get as many wins as we hoped we would get.”

Dunlap finished the season with a 4-10 conference record and 11-20 overall.

Wooden said the “team first” comment exemplifies what Jablonski is all about.

“He’s a quiet kid who just goes out there and does his job,” Wooden said. “He’s not one to brag much about himself. He was one of our leaders this season, but he did it by example.”

This summer, Jablonski is putting the “team first” mantra to work again — for football.

The Eagle football team, which only lost one regular season game and advanced to the playoffs last year, lost several key seniors including quarterback Joe Cicciarelli.

Jablonski is in the mix to take over the starting quarterback position, but he has been battling a shoulder injury so he might play at wide receiver instead.

“I just want to help the team any way I can,” he said. “If the coaches think I’m ready to play quarterback, then I’ll do my best. If I’m at wide receiver, I’ll do my best there, too. I just want to get back to the playoffs again.”

He will be one of the few seniors on a young, inexperienced team, but he said he doesn’t consider himself the team leader.

“I’ll just go out and play my hardest. That will be how I show leadership,” he said.

That is quite a contrast from Cicciarelli, who was known to walk up and down the sideline and “fire up” the other players on the bench.

He is working in the weight room to strengthen his shoulder. He is playing summer baseball, but strictly as a designated hitter so he doesn’t have to throw.

Alan, the son of Jeff and Jeanine Jablonski, said baseball is his favorite sport.

He started playing when he was a little boy, but he wasn’t a standout player at first.

“They just stuck me in the outfield,” he said, laughing. “I got better over time.”

 He said would like to earn a scholarship to play college baseball after he graduates from high school in 2009.

“I still have another year to think about that,” he said. “But, I’m going to work really hard at it.”