Evansville Otters Extend Hillson and Montano

EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The Evansville Otters have signed infielders Taylor Hillson and Lance Montano to contract extensions.

Hillson, a Mansfield Pa. native, joined the Otters last season after playing for Mansfield University.

As a senior in 2016, he started all 46 games at shortstop and led the team with a .372 batting average while scoring 33 runs. He finished that season with 13 doubles and 24 RBIs. Noted for his defense, Hillson had a .921 fielding percentage in his career at Mansfield.

With Evansville in 2017, Hillson appeared in 17 games and collected eight hits and two doubles. He also drew six walks.

“Taylor showed a lot of promise last year and I believe he learned a lot about the commitment required to play professionally,” Otters manager Andy McCauley said. “We’re looking forward to seeing him this spring competing for one of the infield positions.”

Montano came to Evansville last season after playing for the University of Rio Grande (Ohio).

In 2016, Montano hit .332 and finished with 52 RBIs, 11 doubles, one triple and five home runs. Montano played in the California Winter League in 2017, where he hit .306 in 17 games.

Montano appeared in 41 games last season for the Otters and finished with a .242 batting average. He collected 18 runs and finished with eight RBIs.

“Lance will be the only returning first baseman and hopefully he is ready to compete for an everyday job there,” McCauley said. “We saw glimpses of the power and defense needed, we just need to see it on a more consistent basis.”

The Otters made an additional move, signing right-handed pitcher Sam Thoele. An Effingham, Ill. native, Thoele played collegiately at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Thoele was drafted in the 14th round of the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft by the Colorado Rockies. He pitched in the Rockies’ organization from 2015-17, splitting time between Grand Junction, Asheville, Lancaster and Boise. In 80 games, he had a 4.52 ERA and finished with 17 saves in 81.2 innings.

“He had interesting numbers with the Rockies’ organization and it made us want to see him in spring training,” McCauley said. “Sam is going to be competing for a late bullpen role, possibly as our closer.”