Kevin Kasilowski felt his baseball IQ going up.

He also felt his spirits going down.

"By the end, it was killing me," Kasilowski said of sitting out his junior baseball season at Haddon Township because of a shoulder injury.

Kasilowski has made the most of his return for his senior season. He is leading the Hawks in hits and RBIs and playing sensational defense at shortstop, according to coach Doug Richardson.

"It seems like he takes two or three hits away a game," Richardson said of Kasilowski's play in the middle of the infield.

Kasilowski is the leadoff batter for Haddon Township, which is 12-5 overall and 10-3 in Colonial Conference play. The Hawks will play Cherokee, the No. 1 team in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings, in the opening round of the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic on Saturday at Maple Shade.

Through Wednesday, Kasilowski was batting .413 with 26 hits, including five doubles. He also had 18 RBIs.

Richardson said Kasilowski's leadership has helped the Hawks as much as his hitting, baserunning, and fielding.

"He's like having another coach on the field," Richardson said. "He's so mature. In the dugout, you can always hear his voice, talking to the kids about at-bats, about what the pitcher is trying to do."

Kasilowski participated in a few practices in March 2011, but needed to shut down because of a shoulder injury that he says was the result of "wear and tear." He underwent surgery that April, missing the scholastic season as well as the summer season with the Haddon Heights American Legion team.

"I probably lost 200-300 at-bats," Kasilowski said.

He was able to play soccer in the fall. He scored a hat trick in a tournament victory over Glassboro, and a goal in a 3-1 victory over Waldwick on Nov. 20 as Haddon Township won the first state title in the history of the program.

But baseball is Kasilowski's game. He was determined to come back strong for his senior season.

"What's great is how well we've played as a team," Kasilowski said. "We've been playing good baseball."

Kasilowski plans to attend James Madison. He said he might try to walk on to the Dukes' Division I baseball team.

But he's keeping his options open. If a baseball scholarship becomes available based on his play this season, he said he would consider it.

Kasilowski said he's thrilled to be out on the baseball field again. He spent a lot of time in the dugout last season.

"I came to every game," Kasilowski said. "I got to see a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff and got a better understanding of the game. It built my baseball IQ.

"But it was tough after a while. I just wanted to be out there playing again."

Contact Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports