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In Franchise First, Brisbane to Host Post-Season
01/15/2016 2:04 AM ET
The first-place Bandits have ensured that their playoff drought is no longer.
The first-place Bandits have ensured that their playoff drought is no longer. (SMP Images / ABL Media)

MELBOURNE, Vic. - For the first time in the six-season history of the revamped Australian Baseball League, the Brisbane Bandits, proudly presented by WellDog, are heading to the playoffs, also marking the first time ever that Queensland will play host to post-season play.

Sitting atop the circuit ladder with a three-and-a-half-game lead over the Canberra Elite Cavalry in second place, the Bandits are still fighting to secure the top spot in the ABL and ensure that they host the three-game Championship Series at AFA Stadium at Holloway Field, but no matter the outcome in the team's final seven games, baseball will be played in Brisbane beyond the regular season.

"Bringing playoff baseball to Brisbane for the first time ever," Bandits manager David Nilsson said. "We won in the old league, but we didn't play a home game. We played our semis and our finals on the road, so even the old team never hosted a playoff game. The semis were in Perth and the finals were in Sydney, so the Bandits have never hosted a final."

With the same goal in mind each season, Brisbane has finally started to achieve the goals it has set out to accomplish every year. After Bandits CEO Mark Ready stepped into his current role last season, he looked to turn the franchise around and help it to its first post-season berth, and he is happy with the results so far.

"That was my goal coming into the league and bringing Dave Nilsson back," Ready said. "We discussed it 18 months ago, and our primary and only goal was to bring the Claxton Shield home to Queensland, so that's what we're striving to do. We had a plan and it's come to fruition so far.

"All things being equal, there's still a lot of baseball left to play and it's never over until it's over. But with the team we've got, the environment we've got, the culture we've got, we're expecting the team will leave everything they've got on the field no matter what. And whatever the outcome, it will still be a great victory for Queensland and a celebration for baseball in Queensland."

Added Nilsson: "It's been very enjoyable so far. A lot of come-from-behind wins, and you don't get to be around too many teams that do that, so it's pretty cool. They did it at the start of the season and they've continued to do it, so to have a team that plays well at home and has a lot of come-from-behind wins, it's fun to be around. It's just fun, it's enjoyable, it's satisfying."

Behind the Cavs, the Adelaide Bite, proudly presented by SA Power Networks, sit six games back of first place, with the CompassMarkets.com Sydney Blue Sox one-and-a-half games behind them, and the Alcohol Think Again Perth Heat an additional game-and-a-half back, nine games out of the top spot.

With several teams still in contention for the playoffs, the Bandits secured their berth heading into the 13th round of ABL play because of the remaining matchups left in the regular season - Sydney taking on Canberra and Adelaide matching up against Perth this week, and the Cavalry facing the Bite in the final series of the year - ensuring that all of the other teams cannot win each of their games, due to playing one another.

Brisbane's magic number narrowed to five after the team's most recent win in Melbourne following its series victory over the Blue Sox, ensuring that any combination of Bandits wins and Canberra losses amounting to that number will result in a first-place finish at the end of the regular season, with Holloway Field hosting the ABLCS and hoping to bring the Claxton Shield in Queensland.

Looking to clinch the top spot in the circuit, the squad that currently sits atop the ladder started a four-game series against the Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces on Thursday with a win and will return home for the final four-game set of the regular season from Victoria to host the Heat.

"We've shown that we continue to score runs here, that no score is beyond our reach, that the guys love playing here, the field is really built for them, and it's a really intimate environment," Brisbane's skipper said at AFA Stadium. "A lot of the opposing teams, as much as we've performed well this year, they love coming here too because they get the same sort of intimacy from [Holloway]. For new fans, come down here and enjoy the whole baseball experience, and I'm sure you'll go away pretty excited and pretty pleased."

Playoff baseball in Brisbane will see some changes to the current structure at Holloway Field, with the addition of more stadium seating, reconfiguration of some of the existing landscape, and exciting new options for food around the stadium with about four times the amount of choices at the ballpark.

"We are going to put an additional one thousand seats in, plus other smaller stands to accommodate about an extra 1,800 seats in total around different group areas," Ready said. "So we hope to get somewhere between three-and-a-half to four thousand spectator spots…

"We've got additional land space that we can utilise; we're just working through with the city council now to see what areas we can utilise that will fit the council guidelines but they're pretty happy with us at this point in time, and they're working with us to ensure that we can fit a capacity crowd in."

With an already enthusiastic fan base attending Bandits home games, the organisation looks forward to welcoming an even bigger crowd with even more of the same passion to give them something Brisbane has never seen before.

"Everybody will be suffering from yellow fever," Ready said. "It will be electric. With so many people in such a small stadium, all crowded around the field in close proximity, it will ensure that it is a sensational atmosphere."

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.