Martin’s arm, L’Etoile’s bat leads Whalers to 17U World Series first-place

By DN WRITING STAFF | July 29, 2023

Joseph Gratta scores one of his three runs for CT Whalers on ball hit by Luciano Frezza. 

By Sean Reilly

A total of 53 teams competed in the Super 17 World Series this week at Diamond Nation.

None of them fared better than the CT Whalers, who finished with a 4-0 record and a 25-2 run differential. 

The capper to a fabulous week in Flemington took place on Friday morning, when starter Kyle Martin pitched three perfect innings and Kyle L’Etoile went 3-for-3 with four RBI in an 11-0, four-inning win over the Complete Game Colonials. 

By finishing at the top of the standings and as one of the top five teams in the tournament, the boys from Connecticut earned the right to return to ‘The Nation’ for the Super 17 Top 25 from Aug. 14-18.

The Whalers allowed one run in each of the first two games in the event, before closing with back-to-back shutouts.

“It’s been amazing this week,” said Martin, a right-hander who struck out the side in both the first and second innings (three swinging, three looking) before adding one more swinging strikeout in a 1-2-3 third. 

With Martin’s team up 11 runs, he yielded to the bullpen in the fourth, when Complete Game got three singles but could not score.

Kyle Martin pitched three perfect innings with seven strikeouts for the Whalers.

Martin, who allowed one unearned run in a two-inning stint earlier in the week, has been working lately with a new pitching coach. 

“I have a new pitching coach, and I’ve been throwing dots,” he said. “I mainly throw a four-seamer and a slider. The slider has been breaking and the fastball has been snapping, so it’s been going pretty good.”

After Martin’s dominant first inning, his teammates scored four times in the bottom of the frame. 

Leadoff man Joseph Gratta walked, stole second and came home when Todd Butler hit a grounds rule double to right center. Frank Boutot drove in Butler with a single to center. After a groundout moved Boutot to second, he scored on a single by L’Etoile. After hits from Matthew Blachuta and Landon Wyskiewicz, a wild pitch scored L’Etoile with the fourth run. 

The Whalers added three more runs in the second inning.

Boutot, who ended 2-for-2 with a walk, three runs and two RBI, had an RBI single, Luciano Frezza reached on an error that scored another run, and L’Etoile  added an RBI base hit. 

The first two Whalers batters were retired in the third before an error opened the door for a four-run uprising and the opportunity for a mercy rule ending in the fourth inning.

Gratta was the man who reached on the error, and Butler was hit by a pitch. Boutot then walked on a full count to load the bases. Frezza hit a two-run single before L’Etoile smacked a two-run double.

The first three batters in the Whalers lineup – Gratta, Butler and Boutot –  accounted for three hits and scored eight runs. 

L’Etoile finished with three of his team’s nine hits. It was a great way to conclude the tournament after hitting into several hard-hit outs in the earlier games.

“‘I’m just trying to drive it to the other field, and get RBI’s for the team,” he said. 

He was also glad to provide support for a pitcher who was throwing so well. 

“It’s so good when he pitches like that,” L’Etoile said. “It makes you want to play well for him.”

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