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KODY ALAYON READY TO LEAD NOLL ON LONG POSTSEASON QUEST

Sunday, May 22, 2011 • POSTED BY:  Tom Wyatt Post-Tribune correspondent

Kody Alayon soaked it all in two years ago when he was called up to the Bishop Noll varsity at the end of the his freshman season.

He watched as the Warriors cruised to a Class 2A sectional title, and then a regional title before losing an 11-inning heartbreaker in the semistate, one game away from playing for a state championship.

Playing time was sparse. But that wasn't the point. With a bunch of upperclassmen to show him the way, Alayon just watched, listened and learned.

"Just seeing how far they got to the regional and the semistate, it kind of gave me a mission," Alayon said. "I wanted to take on a leadership position and help my team get there. We came up short that year, and it was tough. But it gave me motivation to want to do it this year and next year."

Bishop Noll coach Paul Wirtz watched Alayon as a freshman during that call-up. He noted how Alayon handled the situation.

"He wasn't just happy with being called up," Wirtz said. "Every day he was there, he was learning as much as he could learn from the older guys."

Now a junior, Alayon is in the midst of a monster year. Through 23 games and batting in the No. 3 spot, he was leading the team with a .485 average, three home runs, 29 RBI and 15 stolen bases.

But to Alayon, they're just numbers that don't mean much if the team doesn't win. And after a difficult start to the season that included eight Class 4A opponents in their first nine games, the Warriors have rebounded to earn a share of the Greater South Shore Conference title.

"I'm really not trying to look at the numbers too much," Alayon said. "I'm just trying to do what I can for the team. We're pretty young, and a couple of us have to step up in some ways. I'm trying to fill that role."

Alayon took over the starting role at shortstop last season. Wirtz said Alayon is one of the best he's seen at the high school level, pointing to solid range, a strong arm and consistency. Equally as important, Alayon has the mentality to handle the position.

"I make a few errors here and there, but I try my best to man up about it and show up for the next play," Alayon said. "I don't get down on myself too much because I know there's another play coming."

Alayon is a true baseball enthusiast. He doesn't just play the game; he lives it. In the off-season he takes advantage of as many opportunities as he can to take grounders inside or a hacks in a batting cage.

"He's a complete baseball player," Wirtz said. "He loves the game as much as anything. If he could do anything at any given time, it would be on the baseball field. He's motivated to be as good of a baseball player as he possibly can be. A lot of kids want to be good, but he puts the effort into it."