CEDAR GROVE, NJ - After a solid year where the team finished 16-12 the Cedar Grove High School baseball team hopes to take the next step in its development.

“I would like to improve on our record, that would be a start and I would like to compete for the division,” said Head Coach Randy Nelson.

Captain Shane Benson will lead Cedar Grove at shortstop in 2018. Last season the senior boasted a .511 batting average with a team-leading 48 hits.

Sign Up for E-News

“[Benson] is our Captain, he’s the leader of the team, there’s not a lot I can’t say about him…he’s really our spark plug and the guy that gets us going,” said Nelson.

Joining Benson on the left side of the infield will be Ryan Turi. Turi will bat cleanup for the squad after driving in 20 runs last season with a .304 batting average.

“[Turi] had a real good year offensively and defensively last year,” said Nelson.

On the right side of the infield Joe Kubu will head up first base for the Panthers after a tough 2017 where he was plagued with injuries. In limited time Kubu managed to bat .333 last year for the squad and hopes to continue his solid form this season.

“This year I’m expecting a lot out of [Kubu] he’s a guy who’s a good defender who will pitch for us too,” said Nelson.

Second base will be a platoon position for Cedar Grove with the hot-hand getting the start. Ray Williams will see action when he’s not pitching, but Mike Lever and Anthony Clarizio will each rotate in when Williams pitches.

Cedar Grove will rely heavily on an experience pitching staff in 2018. Ray Williams and Nick Picinich. Last season the tandem combined for a 7-5 record with 87 strikeouts in 85 innings pitched.

Managing the pitching staff will be senior Dennis Mitola. The senior was solid defensively flashing one of the best arms in the conference while adding 12 RBIs for the season.

“He’s been catching these guys for years so it’s good to have him back there,” said Nelson

In the outfield Cedar Grove will utilize Jake Ferrara as their everyday left fielder. Ferrera was a well-rounded player in 2017 for the Panthers driving in 15 runs while scoring another 15 of his own.

“[Ferrera] has made a lot of big plays for us throughout the years,” said Nelson.

Rounding out the outfield for Cedar Grove will be senior Dom Bryant and junior Joe Gerard. The duo saw split action in 2017 combining for three runs scored and three RBIs for the year.

Currently the Panthers are working on fine-tuning themselves for their season opening game that starts on Monday. While the squad is confident in its abilities, a lack of preparation on the outside field due to weather restrictions has made the squad a bit uneasy.

“Our major thing the last couple of says is to get out on the field to get us ready for the season because the season is not stopping, the season is coming one way or the other so we’ve got to be ready and that’s what we’re working on,” said Nelson.

Cedar Grove will take on Science Park at home on Monday to open their 2018 campaign.

“At this point the kids are chomping at the bit to play games,” said Nelson.

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

Sign up for our FREE daily eNews and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Got a news tip or opinion? email us at jmoreno@tapinto.net

Download the FREE TAPinto App!  Click here for Android - Click here for iOS to get news as it is happening.