OTTERS WIN THRILLER, CLINCH FRONTIER LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP

The Evansville Otters used pitching and defense to win Game Five, 1-0, clinching their second Frontier League Championship in team history on Monday night. Hunter Ackerman got the start for Evansville, and he was superb. Ackerman carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning, but gave up a triple to Kyle Gaedele with one out in the inning. Ackerman tossed seven and two-thirds scoreless innings, ending the night with the victory.

The only offense needed in the game came off the bat of Rolando Gomez in the bottom of the third inning, as he drove in Christopher Riopedre with a single to center field, giving the Otters the only run of the game. That lone run ended up being enough as the Otters pitching staff combined for a one-hit, shutout of the Rascals in the decisive Game Five at Bosse Field.

The game was low scoring, but there was plenty of drama. After Ackerman gave up the one out triple to Gaedele, he faced his first real adversity of the night in that seventh inning. With the tying run at third base and one out, Ackerman blew a fastball by Jason Merjano to get a much-needed strikeout. Ackerman then got some help from his shortstop for the final out in the inning, as Riopedre made a sliding stop deep in the hole on the left side of the infield, and delivered a strike to first in time to get the third out, preventing the run from scoring.

Clint Freeman led off the eighth inning for River City with a deep fly ball to center field. This time it was Chris Sweeney who made the play, tracking down the fly ball as he crashed into the wall, holding on for the first out of the inning. Ackerman then faced a pinch hitter in Braxton Martinez, and got him to groundout for the second out of the inning. That ended Ackerman’s night as he exited with two outs in the eighth inning and the Otters turned it over to the bullpen.

Ken Frosch was the first pitcher to emerge from the bullpen, but he walked the only batter he faced to put the tying run on base. Evansville then made a quick change as the Otters brought in Trevor Walch to face the right handed hitting Johnny Morales. Walch also walked the first batter he faced bringing up the red-hot, Josh Ludy with two runners on base and two out in the inning. Walch got Ludy to fly out to right field, ending the inning and the scoring threat.

With Evansville three outs away from their second Frontier League Championship, the Otters turned it over to their closer, Randy McCurry, for the top of the ninth inning. McCurry led the league in saves in the regular season with 23, and he picked up his third save of the postseason on Monday night. McCurry cruised through the ninth inning. He got the leadoff batter to ground out to Josh Allen, struck out the second batter, and finally got the final batter to ground out to Nik Balog at first base to end the game.

With the 1-0 victory in Game Five, the Evansville Otters won the Frontier League Championship Series 3-2 over the River City Rascals. The championship is the team’s second title in team history, with the other title coming in 2006.  River City fell in the finals for the third consecutive season.

Hunter Ackerman picked up the win in the game, and was also named Most Valuable Player of the Frontier League Championship Series. Randy McCurry was credited with his third save of the playoffs and 26th overall in 2016.