2019 SEASON RECAP
Making their fourth consecutive Frontier League postseason appearance, the Evansville Otters’ historic 2019 season ended Sept. 6 with a 4-2 Game 3 loss to the River City Rascals in the Frontier League Divisional Series. The Rascals completed the sweep against the Otters out of the best-of-five series to end the Otters’ journey toward a third league championship in franchise history. 2019 also marked the seventh consecutive winning season for Evansville and saw the Otters do something that hadn’t been done in franchise history since 1999 – clinch a division title.
The Otters headed into the final weekend of the regular season atop the Frontier League West Division standings with the Florence Freedom right on their tails. Going into the middle game of the three-game series against the Southern Illinois Miners, the Otters only needed a win or a loss by the Freedom to secure the West Division title since Evansville owned the tiebreaker over Florence. Even though the Otters suffered a loss on that Saturday, Aug. 31, the Florence Freedom lost their game against the Windy City Thunderbolts, giving the Otters their first division title since 1999. With clinching the division title, the Otters also secured the best overall record in the league and the top spot in the postseason.
Evansville qualified for the postseason in a fourth consecutive season for the first time since 1997-2000. The Otters finished the regular season with a 57-39 record, tying the franchise record for wins in a season, which was set in 2014, and recorded 50 or more wins in six of the last seven seasons.
In flipping the calendar from July to August, the Otters were looking up to the Freedom in the West Division standings. Evansville started August with an 0-4 record before tearing off an 18-5 record to propel themselves into first place and in a clinching position going into the last two games of the season. The race in the West Division and for the Wild Card spots was tight as Florence, River City and Southern Illinois were all in the mix. Florence went 15-12 in the month of August, River City went 15-11, and Southern Illinois went 18-10.
The Otters had six regular season series sweeps, five of which came at home in the confines of Bosse Field. The Otters swept the Schaumburg Boomers (June 25-27), Joliet Slammers (July 17-18), the Windy City Thunderbolts (July 26-28), the Lake Erie Crushers (Aug. 6-8), the Southern Illinois Miners (Aug. 20-22), and the Gateway Grizzlies (Aug. 27-29). Evansville’s sweep against the Miners was the only one on the road.
The finish of the regular season also included a few Otters members receiving end-of-season awards and recognition. Third baseman Ryan Long was named the league’s Most Valuable Player and postseason all-star at third base. Long is the first Otters player to receive the Morgan Burkhart MVP Award since former infielder Josh Allen won the MVP Award in 2016, preceding the Otters’ championship run. Long is also the third Otters’ player in the last six seasons to win MVP as Shayne Houck also won the award in 2014. At the time of being announced as the league’s MVP, Long was hitting .292 with a .905 OPS. Long had a league-leading 78 RBIs, second-most in franchise single-season history, a team-best 14 home runs, and was top-10 in the league in batting average. The Otters third baseman also was fourth in the league with 26 doubles, tied for fourth with four triples, third-best slugging percentage at .504, and fifth-best on-base percentage at .386.
Otters closer Taylor Wright was given the Jason Simontacchi Rookie of the Year Award. He is the second relief pitcher in three years for the Otters to win the honor as Kyano Cummings won in 2017. Wright had a 0.92 ERA through 38 appearances and in 48.2 innings pitched. He tallied 56 strikeouts and 18 saves in his rookie season.
Meanwhile, starting pitcher Tyler Beardsley was awarded the league’s Fran Riordan Citizenship Award. Not only posting an 9-4 record with a 2.56 ERA and 116 strikeouts on the mound in 20 starts, Beardsley had also been actively involved in the Evansville community throughout the season. Beardsley’s community outreach involved non-profit organizations and spending time with the youth. Some of the specific activities include interacting with at-risk children at the Ark Crisis Children Center, reading to children at the St. Vincent Early Learning Center, promoting pet adoption at It Takes A Village no-kill animal rescue shelter, engaging with veterans at Evansville’s VA Health Clinic, and more.
The Evansville coaching staff also received some recognition as pitching coach Max Peterson was given the Darren Bush Coach of the Year Award. Peterson’s guidance led four Otters’ pitchers to being signed to MLB affiliated organizations this season, including starting pitchers Patrick McGuff, Randy Wynne and Jacques Pucheu as well as relief pitcher Danny Hrbek. Peterson also led the Otters’ pitching staff to a franchise single-season record of 868 strikeouts, which led the Frontier League. The franchise’s last record-setting mark was 832 in 2017. The Evansville pitching staff allowed the second-fewest runs and hits, had the second-best WHIP in the league at 1.26, batting average against at .230, and ERA at 3.30, and had the most shutouts with 14. The Otters also tied with the River City Rascals for the most complete games with eight.
In a season featuring a lot of returning players but a lot of new faces, the Otters found impact performers from the roster. Offensively, David Cronin set the tone at the top of the Otters’ lineup, batting .285 with 34 RBIs and 50 walks, posting an on-base percentage of .380. He also led the league with 65 runs scored. Newcomer Keith Grieshaber complemented Cronin, batting second in the lineup often, finishing in the top five in the league in batting average at .291. Grieshaber also drove in 42 runs. Long produced his MVP numbers from the third spot in the lineup, setting personal career highs in RBIs and home runs. The addition of Elijah MacNamee in July also solidified Evansville’s offense, as MacNamee batted .309 with 19 runs, seven doubles, 17 RBIs and 21 walks in just 38 games.
For the 2019 midsummer classic, which featured the Frontier League All-Stars against the host Can-Am League All-Stars, Evansville sent four players to the All-Star Game, being voted for by league managers, coaches, staff and media. The Otters sent position players Ryan Long, Carlos Castro, Rob Calabrese and pitcher Taylor Wright to the All-Star Game. Long and Castro also participated in the Home Run Derby.
On the mound, veteran pitcher Tyler Vail set numerous records and career marks during the 2019 season. Vail set Otters’ career records for games started (60), wins (23), innings pitched (364.1), and strikeouts (331). After having a slow start to the 2019 season, Vail finished with a 5-5 record and a 2.77 ERA while recording 84 strikeouts in 11 starts, 18 appearances, and 81.0 innings pitched.
Tyler Beardsley evolved into a top-notch starter following the departures of Patrick McGuff and Randy Wynne. Beardsley moved into the top-10 single-season record books in Otters’ history in games started (20), innings pitched (130.0), wins (9), ERA (2.56), and strikeouts (116). Beardsley found his name among the league’s best next to his teammate Jake Welch. Welch was acquired before the season in a trade with Windy City, finding his niche in the Otters’ rotation. Welch also made his way into the top-10 single-season record books in Otters’ history in games started (20), innings pitched (129.0), and second in strikeouts with 127, which was 11 shy of Andre Simpson’s 2005 mark of 138.
The 2019 season provided several memorable moments for the franchise in its 25th anniversary season, including Vail’s strikeout record-breaking performance at Florence on July 20, walk-off hits by Mitchell Hansen and Ryan Long on the weekend of May 17-19 against the Freedom, and a walk-off wild pitch in the 11th inning against River City on Aug. 15. Evansville also won 14-11 on May 22 in a marathon 12-inning game.
Evansville also had five players signed into affiliated professional baseball among three MLB organizations during the 2019 season. Position player Taylor Lane was signed by the New York Mets organization on May 29 after starting the season with a .348 batting average. Not even two weeks later, right-handed pitcher Patrick was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 10, his second time being signed while in an Otters’ uniform as he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds organization in July 2018. McGuff was 5-0 with a 1.04 ERA and 60 strikeouts in six starts at the time of his signing. He also had two complete games. A little over a week later, pitcher Randy Wynne was signed by the Reds organization on June 17. Wynne was 5-2 with a 3.42 ERA and 47 strikeouts in seven starts and 50 innings pitched, getting his first chance in affiliated baseball. After one start, pitcher Jacques Pucheu was also signed by the Reds on June 21, picking up four strikeouts in 4.1 innings pitched in his first start against professional hitters. The next day, June 22, relief pitcher Danny Hrbek was signed by the Mets organization after posting five saves and a 1.08 ERA in 15 appearances with 27 strikeouts.
Evansville was 32-16 at Bosse Field in the 2019 regular season, the best since going 30-18 at home in 2017 regular season. On the road, the Otters were 25-23 in 2019.
Manager Andy McCauley increased his managerial records in Otters’ history, sitting first in franchise history in regular season wins (474) and games managed (910). McCauley’s overall win total stands at 481. McCauley has led Evansville to five postseason appearances, including the 2016 Frontier League Championship season.
To cap off the Evansville Otters’ 25th anniversary season celebration, Evansville was voted the Frontier League’s Organization of the Year. The Otters are the longest-tenured, active franchise in the Frontier League, going back to 1995. Evansville averaged 2,175 fans per game in 2019, ranking seventh in the 10-team Frontier League. The Otters saw a total of 101,765 fans come through Bosse Field’s gates in the 2019 season.
The Evansville Otters want to thank all fans, corporate partners, and staff for their support and help in making the Otters' 25th anniversary season a success.
The Evansville Otters are the 2006 and 2016 Frontier League champions.
The Otters play all home games at historic Bosse Field, located at 23 Don Mattingly Way in Evansville, Ind. The front office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Stay up-to-date with the Evansville Otters by visiting evansvilleotters.com, or follow the Otters on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For more information, visit evansvilleotters.com or call 812-435-8686.