The Evansville Otters have signed pitchers Randy Wynne and Jake Davis, infielder Ryan Long, and utility Taylor Hillson to contract extensions for the 2019 season.
Wynne, the Santee, Calif. native, found great success on the mound in 2018, transitioning from the bullpen to one of the top starting pitchers in the Frontier League and 2018 all-star.
“Randy was a huge part of our playoff run last year,” said Otters manager Andy McCauley. “He was a steady, reliable starter who gave us a chance to win every time out.”
“I’m excited to have another opportunity to play Otters’ baseball,” said Wynne. “After last season’s postseason run, I’d like to see us build off that and go farther this year.”
Wynne came to the Otters after two seasons in the United Shore Professional Baseball League with the Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers. In two seasons with the Beavers, Wynne was 12-8 with a 3.31 ERA, striking out 131 batters and walking 19. He played collegiately at Grossmont Junior College and Missouri Baptist.
The right-hander made four relief outings before making 19 starts in the Otters’ starting rotation. Wynne finished 2018 with a 9-9 record and recorded a 3.55 ERA in 134.1 innings pitched. He also struck out 114 batters, walked only 16, and tossed four complete games.
“I think for the most part, I gave us an opportunity to win games. Every time out my goal is to dominate, and I’m looking to do just that more consistently this year,” said Wynne.
“We are looking forward to another quality year out of Randy,” said McCauley.
In 2018, Wynne was one start shy of tying the Otters’ single-season record, tied for the fifth-most complete games in a season, seven innings pitched shy of the Otters’ season record, and tied for fourth for wins and strikeouts in an Otters’ season.
“The key is trusting my stuff and the catcher giving the signs. When those things come together, I’m confident I can throw any pitch, in any count, where I want it,” said Wynne.
Davis is from Cypress, Texas and was a mid-season signing for the Otters in 2018. The left-hander joined the Otters’ bullpen, making six appearances and a start in the last game of the regular season at the Normal CornBelters.
“Jake did a good job for us last year as a rookie left-handed pitcher,” said McCauley. “We’re looking to see him take his game to the next level and become a larger part of the bullpen.”
“During the summer last year, I was looking for exposure and an opportunity,” said Davis. “My friend and I drove across the country until we played and met with an old summer league coach, Eric Coleman, who got us in contact with Evansville and a few other independent league teams. I had a tryout, and two weeks later, I had an opportunity as Otter.”
In 8.1 innings pitched, Davis had 14 strikeouts and seven walks. He struck out six batters in four innings in the season finale at Normal.
“I want to play a bigger role in the team’s success this season,” said Davis. “My command was not where I wanted it last season which limited my opportunities on the mound. I am seeking to turn that around this season.”
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to compete for a job and excited to be under the lights at Bosse Field again soon.”
Long signs with the Otters for his third season with the club in 2019. In 2018, the Crandall, Texas native picked up where he left off in 2017 and took tremendous steps forward in 2018, earning a league all-star selection.
“I felt really confident at the plate last season, and I think it showed in my performance,” said Long. “Overall, I was pleased with the strides I made in my first two seasons in Evansville.”
Long joined the Otters in June of 2017 following his senior season at Texas Tech. In 49 games played in 2017, Long batted .286 with the Otters, but in 2018, Long played in 90 games and increased his batting average to .292.
“Long has been and will continue to be one of the top hitters in the league,” said McCauley. “He should be a middle of the lineup guy who has proven he can score and drive in runs.”
“I did a better job of separating balls and strikes, and I was more aggressive in my approach in previous years,” said Long. “This season, I will be looking to decide when to be aggressive versus selective, taking advantage of pitchers’ mistakes, and do not miss a good pitch to hit.”
Long saw time at third base and in left field in 2018. Overall, Long added a team-best 12 home runs, scored 59 runs, hit 15 doubles, seven triples, had 55 RBIs and walked 48 times. Seeing his name toward the top of McCauley’s lineup card daily, Long’s seven triples tied him for third-best in Otters’ single-season history after having only one triple in 2017.
“With a lot of guys coming back from last year’s team, I am definitely excited to see what’s in store for the Otters this year,” said Long. “I am excited and looking forward to lacing them up and getting after it this season.”
Hillson, from Mansfield, Pa., will be entering his third season with the Otters in 2019. Seeing limited appearances and at-bats in his first two seasons, Hillson has shown spurts of ability at the plate and strong defense for the Otters.
“I am excited to be coming back to Evansville where the atmosphere between the fans, coaches, and players is second to none,” said Hillson.
“Taylor is a big part of our club,” said McCauley. “He is a very versatile player that can play any position on the field and also help us on the mound.”
In 2018, Hillson appeared in 20 games, recording ten runs, six RBIs and 11 walks while collecting 11 hits. Defensively, Hillson saw time on the left side of the infield and in the outfield for the Otters, posting a .955 field percentage.
On the mound, Hillson made an appearance in last year’s regular season finale at Normal. He pitched 3.1 innings, giving up two unearned runs and allowing two hits.
“I have to show up on a daily basis with the mindset to be prepared and ready to play in the lineup at any position,” said Hillson. “That mindset is what makes embracing my role easy for me. I want to be on the field, giving the Otters my best play, and continuing to win ballgames.”
“We are looking for Taylor to continue to improve and become an everyday player, getting consistent at-bats,” said McCauley.
Hillson played collegiately at Mansfield University. As a senior in 2016, he started all 46 games at shortstop, and he had a .921 fielding percentage in his career at Mansfield.
“I have spent time in the off-season doing some tweaking to find a better rhythm at the plate and make strides offensively,” said Hillson. “I’m looking forward to get the season started and swinging the bat well at a higher level and more consistently.”
The Otters will open the 25th season celebration against the Southern Illinois Miners on May 10 at Bosse Field.
To purchase a season ticket or group outing package, call (812) 435-8686 or visit the Bosse Field front office at 23 Don Mattingly Way, Evansville, Ind. The front office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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. 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.