CT Whalers’ Lopez gets last out on debated swing

By DN WRITING STAFF | August 10, 2022

Todd Butler of the Connecticut Whalers eye’s a pitch during 16U Blue Chip on Tuesday.

By Luis Torres

Tri-State Arsenal NY 16U National’s Ive Hill jogged down to first base, thinking he just extended the game after getting hit in the hand with the bases loaded to cut his team’s deficit to one.

However, in the other dugout, Connecticut Whalers coach Frankie Gregoire was adamant that Hill went around and should be out via a strikeout before the ball hit his hand. The umpires converged and spoke about the play, debating if Hill’s bat indeed went around the zone. 

In just a few moments, the contest went from continuing to ending, as umpires judged Hill went around, ending the contest and giving CT Whalers a 5-3 win over Tri-State Arsenal NY 16U National in four innings in 16U Blue Chip Prospects play at Diamond Nation in Flemington on Tuesday.

“My understanding is if the ball hits you and you swing, it’s a dead ball and strike three. It is what it is. The umpires called it. I just wanted to make sure it was right,” Gregoire said. 

CT Whalers pitcher Aiden Lopez was the one who delivered the pitch. Lopez came into the contest with the bases loaded and two outs, looking to get the last out to help his team stave off a comeback attempt by its opponent.

CT Whalers had jumped out to a 5-0 lead, scoring all of its runs in the first two innings of play. 

Todd Butler smacked a bases-clearing three-RBI triple in the opening frame. Catcher Luciano Frezza added an RBI double to make it 4-0 before Hector Rivera scored on a walk to Frank Boutot in the second inning.

In the bottom half of the second inning, Tri-State Arsenal NY 16U National began chipping away at the deficit. Derek Savicki hit an RBI double, and two batters later, Tyler Blasco hit into an RBI fielder’s choice to cut the deficit to three, 5-2. 

That set the stage for the ending, and Lopez came in a high-pressure situation with the bases juiced and two outs. He said his only goal was to throw strikes, using a fastball that clocked in at 80 mph.

Aiden Lopez of the Connecticut Whalers fires to the plate during 16U Blue Chip tournament on Tuesday.

The count was even at 2-2 to Hill before Lopez let go of the last pitch of the game, which ended with the disputed swing.

“Yeah, I felt like I heard the bat hit the ball, but it was just confusing at first because it looked like he swung,” Lopez said. “I’m glad the base umpire talked to the (home plate umpire), and I’m just glad they talked about it and it went my way.”

CT Whalers celebrated the win, while Tri-State Arsenal NY 16U National coach Dennis Buckstein was looking to get an explanation from the umpires as to why the initial call of a hit by pitch was overturned.

“They told me that he swung the bat before he got hit so, therefore, it’s strike three,” Buckstein said. “They said he swung the bat through (the zone) and then got hit on the way out. From the way I saw the ball, it hit (Hill) on the hand and he kind of fell. I get it. It’s a discretional call for them, but I think it was the wrong call. But it is what it is. It’s baseball, and we’ll get back to it (Wednesday).”

Buckstein said he was pleased with how his team fought back after going down early and especially after opening play with an 11-0 loss to MVP Beast 2024 on Monday. 

Gregoire said he was happy with his team’s fast start on Tuesday but is still trying to figure out how to get CT Whalers’ lineup to keep the pressure on throughout a game. They are 2-0 to start play this week, but Lopez echoed his coach’s message about not getting lackadaisical at the plate after jumping out to an early advantage.

“We could’ve done better in the situations, hitting and leaving the runners on base, and we could’ve scored more, but we just have to execute next time and be better next game,” Lopez said.

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