By Patrick Hennessy - Shore Sports Network contributor

Matawan Baseball Preview

Head Coach: Robert Carnovsky

Record: 14-10 (8-4 B North), 2nd-place finish

Captains: Adam Elliott (Jr.); Joe Piscopo (Sr.); Billy Rodriguez (Sr.)

Junior outfielder Makel Caldwell (#4), senior captain Billy Rodriguez (#12) and senior outfielder Alex Cella (right) look to help Matawan build on a 14-win season and make a run in the postseason. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Hennessy)

Key Returners:

Jr. Adam Elliott (6-3, 1.59 ERA); Positions: P,SS

Sr. Joe Piscopo (.453 AVG., 34 hits); Position: CF

Sr. Billy Rodriguez (.367 AVG. 13 RBI); Position: OF

Sr. Nick Smith (2.18 ERA); Positions: P,1B

Key losses: Mike Creamer (P,SS), Nick Santuchio (P), Cory Nusbaum (C), Justin Henderson (3B), Joe Garafolo (INF), Chris Veary(1B).

Key newcomers: Jr. Chris Vetter(C); Sr. Alex Cella (OF); Jr. Dylan Dobbin (INF); Jr. Colin Thompson (P); Jr. Anthony Hirujo (P); Sr. NIck Villanueva (Utility); Sr. Matt Esposito (1B); Sr. Kyle Chapman (OF,P); Jr. Brandon Rivera (P,INF); Jr. Makel Caldwell (OF); Jr. Isaiah Phillip (OF); Jr. Ryan Driscoll (OF).

Outlook: Matawan competes in a loaded Class B North division, where last year the Huskies finished with an 8-4 record (14-10 overall). They finished in second place in the division and lost in the semifinals in the Central Jersey Group II Tournament to eventual winner Robbinsville.

The Huskies played a tough schedule and were still able to finish four games over .500. They return four players from the core of last year's team, and despite the losses of Mike Creamer and Drew University recruit Cory Nusbaum, they seemed poised to make a deep run in the postseason.

"This year's team is more well-rounded, and we have a strong senior class who has taught the underclassmen that hard work in the off season translates to wins during the season,'' head coach Bobby Carnovsky said. "The key for us is our junior class, which is very strong this year.”

The Huskies return three of their top hitters from last year in Elliott, Piscopo, and Rodriguez. Elliott, who was also the kicker on Matawan’s state championship football team in the fall, is ready for his second year as a starter on the diamond. The junior posted a 6-3 record with a 1.59 ERA and a .364 batting average as a sophomore.

Not only has senior Joe Piscopo made his mark on the hardwood, where he recently committed to Centenary College for basketball, his impact on the baseball field has been just as prevalent. Piscopo had a .453 batting average last year and set the Matawan hits record with 34 in one season. He is poised for a huge season as senior.

Senior Billy Rodriguez had a big junior year, hitting .367 and driving in 13 runs. Senior Nick Smith will lead this year's pitching rotation after posting a 2.18 ERA as a junior. The rotation will consist of Smith, Elliott, and juniors Colin Thompson and Anthony Hirujo. The Huskies will also add some speed on the basepaths this year with senior Alex Cella and junior Makel Caldwell.

Matawan has all the pieces in place needed to make a deep run in a tough division as well as the postseason tournaments. With a strong group of returners and a great cast of newcomers, the Huskies look to take another step forward after a solid 2014 season.