For the first time in franchise history, the Brisbane Bandits, proudly presented by WellDog, have secured back-to-back Claxton Shield titles, as the Bandits take the 2017 Australian Baseball League Championship Series over the Melbourne Aces, 3-1.
As Head Coach Dave Nilsson soaked in the final out of the ABLCS, it was a moment he couldn't quite put into words.
"It's somewhere between relief and enjoyment," Nilsson said.
At the helm of two straight Claxton Shield title teams, one characteristic stands out among the rest.
"We get along really well. When you really love your teammates and care for your teammates, you want to give more for them and what you saw evolving over the last four to six weeks was a group of guys who enjoyed coming to the field and hanging out," Nilsson said.
The enjoyment was on full display in Game 2 of the ABLCS.
With Tommy Milone on third base, Wade Dutton plated the first run of the game with an RBI single to left field.
But two innings later, Melbourne's Cody Jones delivered a solo shot to right field to tie the game at one run apiece.
The Bandits fired again in the top-of-the-sixth. With David Sutherland at the dish, de San Miguel lost handle of the ball, allowing Kevin Padlo to score as Sutherland draws the one-out walk.
Two at-bats later, Aaron Whitefield stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and rose to the occasion, delivering an RBI groundout to score Milone and extend the Bandits' lead, 3-1.
Kramer Champlin was outstanding in Game 2, delivering a four strikeout, one-run outing.
With the two run lead in the top-of-the-eighth inning, Dave Nilsson called upon his biggest weapon in the bullpen.
Cue the ABL single-season saves record holder: Ryan Searle. Over two innings, Searle retired four Melbourne batters en route to his final save of the 2016/17 season.
Just four weeks ago, the Bandits were sitting in the fourth place spot in the ABL standings with aspirations of qualifying for the Australian Baseball League Preliminary Finals.
With a new calendar year in play, a reinvigorated Brisbane Bandits unit rose.
Since the 1st of January, the Bandits are 13-6, dropping three of four games to Melbourne in the opening series of 2017 before posting an astounding 12-3 record over the remaining games of 2017.
For David Nilsson, the championship path took a different route for the 2016/17 season, but he commends his unit for rising to the challenge.
"This year was a different journey for us, a tough journey early on, we didn't have all of our pieces midway through the season, even late in the season. With that our pitching was struggling, we had good pieces but we had to find a way to get together and stay strong. To see what our pitchers did within the last four weeks is really remarkable. It's a testament to them, it's a testament to accepting their roles, all their roles changed and I think we really dominated the last couple of weeks," Nilsson said.
At the turning point of the season, Nilsson and his coaching staff created a game plan and the Bandits executed it with poise.
"We mapped out a plan and I don't think we lost faith along the way with the pitchers. We knew it was hard and they were in a hole but we sent a message to our position players and told them to stay strong. Along the way we had Rey come and help coach us, Rodriguez catching, Wade Dutton was a big injection and to have the veteran guys of Trent Oeltjen and Ryan Rowland-Smith it was never a panic amongst the group. Our pitchers turned it around and we did it. I'm really proud of them," Nilsson said.
With the 2017 ABLCS title, comes along the 2017 ABLCS MVP. With an impressive season and even more, an impressive Australian Baseball League Championship Series, Logan Wade earned the 2017 ABLCS MVP. The Brisbane native was 4-for-8 with an RBI over the course of the ABLCS.
"Everyone played good and you hate to pick someone out. But if you have to, you want to pick someone who is a cornerstone of the team. Logan is born and bred. He is every bit of what this team is, what we stand for and who we are. I think everyone on the team is over the moon that he got that," Nilsson said.
With the seventh season of the Australian Baseball League under wraps, the Brisbane Bandits' journey for back-to-back Claxton Shield titles is finally complete.
The Bandits return to Brisbane shortly, but for now, the champions will soak in the feeling of a title once more.