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Bandits bring Claxton Shield championship to Brisbane
02/06/2016 8:20 AM ET
Brisbane took down Adelaide in dominant fashion to become the ABL champions for the first time.
Brisbane took down Adelaide in dominant fashion to become the ABL champions for the first time. (SMP Images)

BRISBANE, Qld. - There's no more work to be done.

The Brisbane Bandits, proudly presented by WellDog, are Claxton Shield champions after taking down the SA Power Networks Adelaide Bite with a dominant 7-1 victory in the second game of the Australian Baseball League Championship Series, presented by Boral, on Saturday night at AFA Stadium at Holloway Field.

Well, maybe there's one thing left for the champs to do.

"We've got to celebrate," Bandits manager David Nilsson said. "We've got to enjoy the night, and just enjoy being together and have a great night."

After earning its first playoff berth in the six years of the revamped ABL, Brisbane snapped its post-season drought in a huge way. The winning squad used just two games in the best-of-three series to defeat the Bite, the second game highlighted by six strong innings from big-league southpaw Travis Blackley and an early three-run home run from ABLCS MVP Donald Lutz on the designated hitter's 27th birthday.

"We just couldn't get the hits and they did," Adelaide skipper Steve Mintz said. "That one pitch that Lutz hit out for the three-run homer, that got them set up and we weren't able to utilise our bullpen. I had to go to one of my closers in the sixth inning just to try and hold the game.

"All the credit to Brisbane. They came out here, they beat us, and they got the hits they needed and they pitched well, and that's why they get to hold the Claxton Shield."

The win on home soil for the Bandits was special for everyone involved, but even more emotional for many of the players, fans, family, friends and others who have been around since the beginning of the circuit, and have been waiting for six years for the moment that finally came to fruition on a rainy Saturday night in Windsor.

"This is the best feeling you can get," first baseman and six-year Bandits veteran David Sutherland said. "I've just got to soak it all in. I loved playing with these guys all year. What everyone's done, from the top to the bottom, from [CEO Mark] Ready down, all the guys at the front office, everyone, it's been great.

"Then obviously Dave and the coaching staff are awesome. They put everything in place. They put a great team together and they just let us play. And the guys all year, if we had a setback, we got past it. We always responded in the best way and it was just awesome. The ride was great. All you can do is just soak it in and enjoy it."

Six-year staffer and current assistant coach Shayne Watson shared Sutherland's sentiment, grateful for the moment and making every season of disappointment all of a sudden worth the time and effort from all those involved across the board right from the beginning.

"It's hard to explain," Watson said. "It's a relief, it's excitement, it's exhilarating. It's just a fantastic feeling at the moment. With the journey that we've gone through from the first year of the revamp to now, and just the reformation of going from the RNA Showgrounds to here at Holloway Field and what Mark's done with Holloway Field and the club, and what [Nilsson] has done, it's been awesome.

"Full credit to everyone who was here before that as well, from 2010 all the way up until now. Anyone and everyone involved played a big part in this championship win right here."

Through misty eyes and with broken voices, there was nothing better than Saturday night's finish for the men who battled to a six-game lead for first place at the end of the regular season and had an undefeated run in the playoffs on the quest for Queensland's first Claxton Shield in a decade and the Bandits only championship since 1994.

"There are so many special things about tonight," Nilsson said. "To have a lot of the old [Bandits players] here, and for everyone to be a part of it who's been around a long time. Then we've got this new generation of young kids coming through with Ryan Battaglia behind the plate, Mitchell Nilsson, Logan Wade, Andrew Campbell, and David Sutherland. The future's out there as well so there are so many exciting things about this group."

Added Battaglia: "This means a lot. I mean, it's been a long time coming. It's been six years. These are pretty emotional times. [Nilsson] is sort of making me teary-eyed. But this is awesome. We couldn't have done it with a better group of guys. And for the Aussie guys who have been here the whole time, I'm sure it means as much to them as it does to me, so it's really good."

Starting with the Bandits on Day 1 of the reformation of the league, the win may have taken longer than Justin Erasmus would have liked, but he wouldn't change a thing right now.

"It means the world," the right-hander said. "Winning a championship at home in front of your family and friends, and everyone who comes out and supports us, there's no better feeling. I'm speechless. It's unreal. This is an incredible feeling…

"This team is unbelievable. The vibe, everything about this club, everything about the Brisbane Bandits from the front office to the players to the people who do the grounds crew work to the fans, it's a very, very good family feeling and I'm very happy."

Added third baseman Mitch Nilsson: "It's hard to put into words. I mean, this has been a long time coming and this is the group right here. Everyone's playing for each other all the time. We had so much fun throughout the whole year and the fans have been amazing. It's just hard to put into words because I'm too happy right now. This is awesome."

League saves record holder and six-year Brisbane hurler Ryan Searle echoed his teammates' sentiment.

"I'm speechless, honestly," Searle said, after throwing the final three outs of the season for his squad. "You can envision what it's going to be like in your head a million different ways, but until you're actually in the moment you don't know what it's going to be like. You just have no idea. When it happened, the rush of emotion and the years of waiting, the years of grinding it out and then hugging everybody in the line, it's just pure emotion. It's so special."

With a great group of players, and all of the puzzle pieces the team needed on and off the field to make its first championship run, the only thing better than the celebrations after the victory was the fun the squad had throughout the entire year.

"This is unreal," Andrew Campbell said. "To win something at a national level is unreal. I've always wanted to do it with the Bandits and we finally got there, so it's awesome. We were riding at the top of the table most of the year, so we were confident we would be able to get it done. When we won last night, coming into today we were pretty determined to finish it and we did that."

Added shortstop Logan Wade, who had two hits in the last game of the year for the Bandits: "It was just so much fun. There was not one point where we were nervous, there was not one point where we were out there struggling or pushing for the game. It was a free-falling game and it's almost like we knew it was going to happen.

"With the team we have, it was going to be tough to beat us this weekend. The crowds here, screaming for us, that gave us runs, and to have our friends and family here to watch the team, everything was unbelievable."

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