EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The Evansville Otters’ 2017 season ended Sept. 9 with a 3-1 Game 4 loss to the Schaumburg Boomers in the Frontier League Division Series.
The Boomers took the best-of-five series against Evansville 3-1 to eliminate the Otters from the postseason—a year after Evansville won the franchise’s second Frontier League championship in 2016.
Evansville qualified for the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2003-04 when Greg Jelks led the Otters to two consecutive trips to the Frontier League Championship Series.
In finishing the regular season with a 52-44 record, Evansville was second in the FL West behind the Florence Freedom, who finished nine games ahead of the Otters at 61-35.
The Otters had to withstand late rallies from the Windy City Thunderbolts, River City Rascals and Normal Cornbelters to clinch a playoff berth. Evansville finished one game ahead of Windy City for the final postseason bid.
Four regular season series sweeps helped Evansville create momentum for a postseason push. The Otters swept the Gateway Grizzlies (June 20-22), Joliet Slammers (July 7-8), Traverse City Beach Bums (June 25-27) and River City Aug. 20-22 at Bosse Field.
Evansville was swept three times, including both series against Schaumburg May 26-28 and July 28-30. The Freedom also swept the Otters at Bosse Field Aug. 8-10.
The best stretch of the regular season came in late June, when the Otters enjoyed a six-game winning streak June 17-25. The streak started with a 9-4 win in Washington, Pa. and over the streak, the Otters outscored the opposition 35-11.
Offensively, the Otters had two players in the top 15 of the Frontier League in batting average with Dane Phillips (.338) third and John Schultz (.317) 12th.
Phillips was also first in doubles (33), seventh in runs (65), second in hits (122) and tied for 12th in home runs (14). He also finished fourth in the league with 66 RBIs.
Jeff Gardner led the league in home runs with 23 and he tied Shayne Houck for the single-season home run record in the process. Gardner also led the league with 86 RBIs.
Josh Allen was tied for first in runs with 83, tied for fourth in triples (6) and fifth in walks (66).
Phillips, Allen and Gardner were all named Postseason All-Stars by voters in the league-wide process, which included broadcasters, general managers, field managers, coaches and local media.
Alejandro Segovia was also tied with Phillips for 12th in league home runs (14) and was sixth in hit by pitches (11).
Max Duval was the ace in Evansville's starting rotation before he was signed by the Miami Marlins’ organization in July.
Duval earned the Brian Tollberg award for being the most valuable pitcher as he went 8-2 in 14 starts with the Otters and led the league with a 2.27 ERA as a starter.
He was an All-Star selection and was also named the Pitcher of the Week on June 26. Despite not playing in the Frontier League in all of August, Duval still finished fourth in strikeouts with 113.
Kyano Cummings was second in the league in appearances on the mound with 50. Cummings was voted the Jason Simontacchi Rookie of the Year after a regular season with a 1.22 ERA. He struck out 58 batters while also recording seven saves.
Randy McCurry was sixth in saves with 17 and Felix Baez finished with 104 strikeouts, good enough for sixth.
Otters hitting coach Bobby Segal was given the Darren Bush Coach of the Year award with Evansville leading the league in total bases (1,366) and walks (416).
The 2017 season provided several milestone moments for the franchise as Shane Weedman threw a no-hitter in a 4-0 win May 13 at Southern Illinois. The no-hitter was the second in franchise history and the first since July 9, 2014 when Chad James no-hit the Traverse City Beach Bums in a seven-inning game.
Phillips tied a Frontier League record with three home runs in a single game in Evansville's 7-3 win over River City May 30. Phillips joined former Otter Jeff Goldbach as Otters players to homer three times in a game as Goldbach accomplished his feat on Aug. 20, 2005 against River City.
The Otters rallied from a 9-0 deficit on Bosse Field's Opening Night May 19 against Gateway, beating the Grizzlies 13-10. The nine-run comeback matched Evansville’s rally against Kalamazoo on Aug. 5, 1996, when the Otters fell behind 9-0 before winning 12-11 in 10 innings.
Two days later in the series finale, Otters staff, coaches and players from 2016 received Frontier League championship rings.
A season-high standing room only crowd of 6,137 watched the Otters take a 4-0 lead in the first inning before cruising to a 10-3 win over River City Aug. 18 on E is for Everyone Night.
The next night, another sellout crowd of 5,455 saw Segovia hit a two-run RBI single with two outs in the eighth to help Evansville beat River City 4-2 on Breast Cancer Awareness Night.
That series concluded Aug. 20 with Evansville retiring the No. 44 of former manager Greg Jelks before Brandon Soat hit a walk-off double in the 10th to seal the series sweep.
Evansville became the first Frontier League franchise to win 1,000 games after a 6-5 victory over Normal Aug. 22 at Bosse Field.
Schultz had his No. 4 retired Aug. 31 in the regular season home finale, becoming the first player in franchise history to have his number retired.
The Otters clinched a wild card spot in the playoffs Sept. 2 despite an 11-2 loss to the Gateway Grizzlies after Schaumburg beat Windy City 4-1.
As a team offensively; Evansville was first in the Frontier League with 99 home runs, fourth in hits (876) and second in RBIs (480).
The Otters pitching staff led the league with 832 strikeouts.
Evansville was 30-18 at Bosse Field in 2017 in the regular season after going 28-17 in the regular season a year ago. On the road, the Otters were 22-26 this season.
Manager Andy McCauley won his 350th game with Evansville in a 6-1 win over Traverse City July 26. McCauley is first in franchise history in regular seasons wins (366) and games managed (718).
McCauley and his wife, Rachel, capped the season by welcoming their second child as Andrew Jacob McCauley was born Sept. 15.
Seven players represented Evansville at the Frontier League All-Star Game in Joliet, Ill. July 12 as Allen, Duval, Schultz, Gardner, Cummings, Phillips and Segovia were voted for by league managers, coaches, staff and media.
Evansville averaged 2,230 fans per game in 2017, ranking fifth in the 12-team Frontier League. Last season, the Otters finished ninth in attendance with an average of 1,962.
16,000 more fans attendance games at Bosse Field this summer compared to a year ago.
Evansvilleotters.com is your source for off-season news and information.
The Evansville Otters are the 2006 and 2016 Frontier League champions. Group packages and season ticket information for the 2018 season will be released in the coming weeks. For more information, visit evansvilleotters.com or call 812-435-8686.