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Tournaments  | Story  | 8/3/2022

Banditos Finish Summer with Championship

Riley Sheppard     
Photo: Florida Banditos 17u Black (Perfect Game)
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In his team's final game of the summer, Daniel Gregory was given the opportunity in his longest outing since Tommy John surgery.

“Once we got our semifinal win, we knew he's our guy,” Florida Banditos 17u Black Head Coach Julian Barcelo said. “We've been on our pitch limit the whole summer and we said, ‘We'll ride it out until you can't go anymore,' and he really came through for us.

“He's a late bloomer, he came off Tommy John surgery and he didn't pitch many innings at American Heritage last year, we just had a loaded staff, but he's gonna be the guy this year and a lot of Big League teams will have him on their radar.”

In the 2-0 victory in the championship game over Florida Panthers 17u, Gregory, a University of Dayton commit, pitched a near flawless 6 2⁄3 innings.

The MV-Pitcher of the Florida Summer Select allowed just five hits in the closeout victory while punching out 11, with a majority of those strikeouts coming from his off-speed action.

“Why not go out with a bang, I love it,” Gregory said postgame. “[Low scoring games] are the best, pitching duels are just more fun and exciting.”

A leadoff double from uncommitted 2023 infielder Eric Vega in the top of the third inning got his team rolling. A wild pitch advanced him to third three pitches later, and a grounder from Dylan Kaplan drove him in to put the first run on the scoreboard.

Kaplan, an uncommitted 2023 graduate and MVP of the tournament, hit .500 over his five games, with eight runs, six RBI, two doubles and a home run.

One of Kaplan’s eight runs throughout the weekend came two innings later after reaching first with a two-out single, and after advancing to second from a Bruno Schafer hit-by-pitch, Yhirian Marrero drove him in with an RBI single.

Despite the Panthers having an opportunity to tie things up with runners on first and third with nobody out, Gregory and the Bandito defense closed the door to keep them scoreless.

Gregory followed it up in the sixth with a near immaculate inning, striking out three straight on just 10 pitches, keeping them on their toes with a mid-80s fastball complemented by his mid-70s curveball and slider.

And while a championship and MV-Pitcher award is a great conclusion to a long summer, Gregory credits the journey back from Tommy John surgery to where he is today.

“It's been a tough, long journey, it took me probably I'd say a year and a half to get back,” Gregory said. “It's been very difficult, I've been through a lot of adversity but now it's turned me to who I am now.”