ROCKFORD -- The pinch hitter needs to be pinched.
For a high school baseball player, it doesn't get any more "pinch-me-is-it-real" magical than what Timothy Jablonsky did on Monday night at Aviators Stadium in Rockford.
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The Prairie Ridge senior had a Hollywood moment when he was chosen last minute to pinch hit against Mundelein in the bottom of the fifth inning of a tense supersectional battle.
The Wolves were down by 1 run and shortstop Nick Schmidt wasn't able to bat after getting shaken up in a collision with a teammate going for a flyball in the outfield in the previous half-inning.
Someone else was going to have to fill in.
After considering a few different guys for the job, Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro chose Jablonsky to pinch hit for Schmidt. The bases were loaded, and there were two outs.
Two pitches in, all Jablonsky did was crush a curve ball 315 feet over the 16-foot left field fence for a grand slam that fueled a dramatic 9-6 comeback victory for Prairie Ridge over Mundelein.
"I couldn't believe it, I think the look on my face (of shock and joy) said it all," said Jablonsky, a seldom-used reserve (5-for-18 on the season) who confirmed that the home run was his first-ever pinch-hit home run and his first-ever grand slam. "I was just so happy."
Prairie Ridge, which moves to 24-16 and has won 14 of its last 16 games, returns to the state finals for the first time since winning the Class 4A state championship in 2008. The Wolves will face Providence in the 3 p.m. semifinal on Friday at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
Mundelein, which had to use four pitchers and could only muster 4 hits, ends one of its best seasons in school history at 36-3.
"Just an awful way to lose and end the season, no doubt about it," Mundelein coach Todd Parola said. "We had a great year, but we just didn't play well in any phase today. Defensively, we had some mishaps. We didn't really have any quality at-bats, and we didn't really pitch it very well today. We've been pretty good all year in all phases and today wasn't the case.
"We picked a poor time for our worst game of the year."
Jablonsky, of course, was just the opposite.
He got the star treatment after the game. He rode the shoulders of all of his teammates, got to hoist the supersectional trophy high above his head, and was treated to the obligatory ice water bath from the Gatorade cooler.
"We pinch-hit Timmy Jablonsky because he's worked his tail off all year long," Pecoraro said. "He's come up in some big moments, some pinch-hitting moments and had good at-bats. But by no means did I think he was going to hit a grand slam in that situation. Geez, the game is funny. I still can't believe it."
The grand slam was part of a 6-run, 3-hit inning for the Wolves. They got 2 runs right before Jablonsky's fireworks on a sacrifice by Jack Myers and an RBI single by Kyle Buresch.
Yet, before the grand slam, Mundelein still held a slim 6-5 lead.
The Mustangs had a big third inning, scoring 5 runs on 3 hits. They drew a few walks, capitalized on a Prairie Ridge error and Reece Dolan drove in a run with a big double to left field.
But Prairie Ridge reliever Jon Tieman, who entered with 2 outs in the third, immediately put the clamps on Mundelein. He pitched the rest of the way and allowed only 1 hit with no walks. Tieman got the win and improves to 3-1.
"It all happened in a snap of the fingers," Mundelein shortstop Derek Parola said of Jablonsky's grand slam home run. "I saw the ball go and I thought, 'No way. This can't be happening right now.'
"But we knew that we still had two more innings to come back. We just couldn't get anything going, though. It just didn't work out this time. It was just one of those days. It's sad that it had to come on this day."