Philadelphia's Steven Wells

Bandits doing well in new league

Plus update on players injured last year

It's a new year and a new league for the Philadelphia Bandits, although the old year was nothing to complain about. The Bandits finished as runners-up in the national tournament, with both loses coming against the champion Des Plaines Patriots team, including a 5-4 decision in the final game. The Bandits will be back in town this year to compete in Philadelphia's 52nd tournament and to try and win the franchise's first national championship.

"We could really hit last year," recalled franchise representative Mike Gossner. "It came down to the last game or two and we didn't get that big hit. So, maybe instead of looking for a 2-run double or a 3-run home run [this year], maybe we'll change it up a little bit, maybe move runners around and play a little small ball."

New League, Coach, and Players

Following the collapse of the long-running Penn-Jersey Collegiate League earlier this year, the Bandits found a new home in the Pendel League.. They are currently in second place of the nine-team league with a 17-5-2 record. Although the Bandits are the only AAABA team in the league this year, Gossner hopes that some of the other teams will join the competition in future years.

In addition to the new league, there are a lot of new faces on the Bandits' roster.

"We're coming up with a fairly young team," explained Gossner. "Our recruiting range is about 50-miles. We take mostly local guys, so we would need lighting in a bottle like last year for us to have a good run." New faces to watch are Austin Constantini (who Gossner described as a "spark plug" for the team this year) and Mercer County Community College's Evan Gillespie. In addition to the young players, the Bandits are led by 26-year-old head coach Dave Angebranndt, who was given the reigns of the team for the first time this year.

"He's a young guy, but the players are playing well for him," said Gossner of Angebranndt.

Injury Update

Last year, two Philadelphia players were injured by a broken bat at Roxbury Park. Shane Monahan suffered a broken nose while Tom Ditro needed reconstructive surgery to his cheekbone. Both players are doing well and are back on the diamond. Ditro was named the 2014-2014 NEAC Player of the Year for his play with Penn State Abington.

Both Ditro and Monahan are returning to Johnstown this year, as are Beau Fleming, Steven Wells (pictured above), and John LaMotta. Fleming had 11 hits in 22 at-bats with 7 RBIs. He also hit 3 doubles, including a 2-run double in the bottom of the 9th inning in the championship game. Wells hit 0.300 last year with 3 RBIs. Monahan hit 0.250 last year with 5 RBIs. Ditro pitched a complete-game win over Schenectady last year, allowing 10 hits but only 2 runs and getting 10 strike-outs. LaMotta pitched relief in 3 games and allowed 2 runs and 7 hits in 6 innings with 3 strike-outs and 2 walks.

Pitchers Shut Down

A reoccuring problems for the Bandits (and some other AAABA teams) are college coaches who request that their pitchers do not continue playing during the summer so that they are not overworked or injured once the college season resumes. While this may help the college teams, it means that several of the pitchers that Gossner had hoped to bring to Johnstown are now unavailable. That includes 2014 tournament players Charlie Jerla (who struck out 8 Altoona players in 7 innings allowing only 4 hits) and Brandon Birkhead.

"On the pitching side, we may not be as strong in the depth as we were last year," lamented Gossner, "because these college coaches are shutting the kids down."

To add one more obstacle to the season, their successful 2014 campaign means that the Bandits will compete in the upper bracket at this year's tournament. Philadelphia was last in the upper bracket in 2011 and suffered their worst tournament ever. Not only did they lose both games, but they failed to score a run until the 9th inning of their second game (an unearned run, at that). In contrast to that, Gossner's first team in 1998 scores 93 runs in 7 games.

Through the hot seasons and the cold seasons, Mike Gossner and the Philadelphia franchise have always been great supporters of the AAABA and will certainly be capable of making a deep run in the bracket this year.

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