EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - After a historic season and the first division title since 1999, the Evansville Otters saw their 2019 campaign end in a 4-2 loss to the River City Rascals Friday in the Frontier League Divisional Series.
The Otters had opportunities late in the game Friday to come back and win, but the Rascals’ bullpen got the necessary outs to win 4-2.
With the win, the River City Rascals complete a sweep of the Otters and advance to the Frontier League Championship Series to face the Florence Freedom, who swept the East Division champion Lake Erie Crushers in their FLDS matchup.
Following two scoreless innings by River City starter Austin Dubsky and Evansville starter Jake Welch, the Otters scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the third inning.
Scoring the first run of the game had been a key to success for the Otters in the regular season, as the Otters were 42-12 when scoring game’s first run.
In the bottom of the third, Mike Rizzitello led off with a double and scored off an error by Rascals shortstop Trevor Achenbach on a ball hit by Keith Grieshaber, giving the Otters a 1-0 lead.
The Rascals responded with their fourth home run of the series in the top of the fourt, as L.J. Kalawaia hit a three-run home run off Welch, putting the Rascals ahead 3-1.
Welch gave Evansville a chance with a quality start, surrendering three runs on seven hits and a walk while recording six strikeouts. He would be given the loss.
The Otters had chances in the fifth and sixth innings to tie or take the lead in the game, but would not score another run until the seventh inning.
Rascals starter Austin Dubsky threw 5.1 innings, allowing an unearned run with two walks and three strikeouts. He would earn the win, keeping the Otters’ offense in check.
Down 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Hunter Cullen led off with a walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and later scored on an RBI single from Tanner Wetrich to cut the Rascals’ lead to one.
Later in the inning with David Cronin at first and Wetrich at third, Grieshaber was called out on strikes and then called for batter interference as Rascals catcher Tanner Murphy threw down to second base trying to throw out Cronin. The batter interference caused Cronin to be called out and ended the Otters’ threat.
Out of the Otters’ bullpen, Drew Beyer threw a scoreless inning, and Cam Opp recorded the final two outs of the eighth to keep it a one-run game.
When Opp went to the mound again in the ninth, the first batter he faced in Zach Lavy hit a solo home run to right field, extending the Rascals’ advantage to 4-2.
Lavy’s home run was the fifth homer for the Rascals in the series.
Taylor Wright retired the next three Rascals in order for a scoreless inning of work to finish the top of the ninth.
In the bottom of the ninth with Rascals closer Jason Zgardowski on the mound, Cullen reached on infield single, and Rizzitello was hit by a pitch, putting the tying run on base.
Zgardowski then retired Wetrich, Cronin and Jack Meggs, who pinch-hit for Grieshaber, to end the game and the Otters’ 2019 season.
In 2019, the Evansville Otters won their first division title since 1999, matched a franchise single-season record with 57 wins in the regular season, made their fourth consecutive postseason appearance, and sent five players to MLB affiliated organizations.
Ryan Long was named the Frontier League’s MVP, Taylor Wright was given the league’s Rookie of the Year honor, Tyler Beardsley was honored with the citizenship award, and pitching coach Max Peterson was named the league’s Coach of the Year award.
Evansville also sent four all-stars to the midsummer classic, representing the Frontier League against the Can-Am League, which the Frontier League won.
The Otters were also the Frontier League’s Organization of the Year and had over 101,000 fans walk through the gates at Bosse Field and in attendance this 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.