'Electric' atmosphere lifts Bandits to three-peat

CHAMPIONS AGAIN: Ipswich Musketeers Andrew Campbell, Rhys Niit, and Wade Dutton with the ABLCS Claxton Shield. The Brisbane Bandits won for a third straight season on Sunday night.
CHAMPIONS AGAIN: Ipswich Musketeers Andrew Campbell, Rhys Niit, and Wade Dutton with the ABLCS Claxton Shield. The Brisbane Bandits won for a third straight season on Sunday night. Contributed

FOR the third straight season, the Brisbane Bandits are champions of the Australian Baseball League.

And three Ipswich Musketeers played a role in getting them there.

With the beers on ice and championship merchandise strewn about like confetti, Andrew Campbell, Wade Dutton, and Rhys Niit raised the Claxton Shield together following Sunday's 4-2 defeat of the Canberra Cavalry at Holloway Field.

The Bandits completed the first championship three-peat in ABL history, overcoming a 5-1 series-opening loss in Canberra to take out the remaining two matches on home turf.

In Sunday's decider, the Bandits flew out to a 4-0 lead, courtesy of a second innings, three-run home run from catcher Aaron Weisenberger and a solo homer in the sixth via Mitch Nilsson.

It was in the bottom of the sixth when the first of two major disruptions took place, and Campbell was in the thick of it.

The centre fielder was struck on the back by Cavalry pitcher Frank Gailey, which Dutton said the Bandits players took particular offence to.

It sparked an all-in brawl, which resulted in the ejection of Gailey and Bandits coach David Nilsson.

"We're a pretty tight family, if something happens to one of our teammates and we don't like it, you'll hear from all of us," Dutton, who did not play in the three-match series but was watching from the stands, said.

"Who knows (if the pitch) was intentional or not, those things happen in baseball.

"It was just one of those things. But like I said, we are family and we look out for each other."

The ruckus seemed to spark the visitors, who opened the seventh innings with their first run of the match before a late-afternoon storm suspended play for more than two hours.

During the extended interval, Dutton said the message within the Bandits group was to make sure they got the job done.

"There wasn't too much said, just to remember we were here to get the job done and make sure not to switch off," he said.

"Once we got back in, all the hitters got together and we told them to get their minds set and ready for the next six outs. That was pretty much it."

The Cavalry would add another to their tally in the eighth through Kyle Perkins, but with Ryan Searle summoned to the mound to close-out the contest, the Bandits held on to take the series 2-1.

Dutton praised the vocal Holloway Field home crowd for generating an "electric" atmosphere.

"I remember when (Travis) Blackley threw a strike and the crowd just went crazy," Dutton said.

"As soon as that happens, you get some sort of feeling in your body - a tingle that sort of says, 'Ok here we go'.

"The baseball fanatics, they just sing and sing... they make up songs about the players, everything.

"Once they get involved, we feed off that and it helps us big time."

Dutton said it was hard to rank the three consecutive championship wins, particularly because each came under different circumstances.

"The first one was obviously fantastic, but the second last year was massive because we had to win something like 15 out of 17 games just to get into the playoffs," he said.

"But it's gotta be the three-peat. You can't go past that. When you win a championship, especially a third in a row, that's quite big.

"We knew we could do it. There was no pressure or anything like that. We knew we could win, so we just went out and did it. That's it."

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