The latest round of playoff action got off to an early start with a rare Saturday night game featuring none other than the D1 baseball league’s top two teams: the first-place Sénart Templiers and defending champion Huskies of Rouen.
Playing at home, the Templiers — with just one loss against playoff teams going into the weekend — again served notice that Rouen’s run of four-straight D1 championships could be in serious jeopardy.
In the opener, Sénart collected seven hits to Rouen’s nine, but took advantage of some costly errors by the visitors to win the game 8-6 and remind fans that the Templiers — with their league-leading team batting average of .305 — may very well be the team to beat this year.
The Saturday night showdown was the first meeting between the two powerhouse clubs since the Templiers beat Rouen 7-5 in the final of the mid-season “Challenge de France” tournament, held in Montpellier between May 9-12.
The Huskies, of course, have other ideas about things should play out in the coming weeks, and earned their own statement win in Sunday’s rematch, beating the home team 4-0 behind a dominating pitching performance by ace Yoimer Camacho of Venezuela, who moved to 10-0 on the season with a 0.82 ERA and a league-leading 114 strikeouts.
Sénart and Rouen are now 12-2 and 10-4 respectively against playoff teams. Should they remain in the top two spots in the standings when the playoff phase ends, on Aug. 4, they will face each other again in the five-game championship series, which begins Aug. 17.
Kevin ‘the King’ Canelón
In La Rochelle, in the meantime, the visiting Barracudas of Montpellier did all they could Sunday to keep their post-season dreams alive by winning a pair against the Boucaniers. The victories move the Barracudas to third place in the table, with a 7-7 record against playoff teams.
In the opener, Montpellier’s star pitcher, Kevin ‘the King’ Canelón of Venezuela, delivered yet another masterful outing, fanning 10 in seven innings. He gave up five hits — three of them to La Rochelle catcher Jesse Baker — but kept the home team scoreless.
For the Barracudas, speedy leadoff hitter Paolo Brossier came up with two hits and an RBI. Antoine Villard and Clémont Lepichon also had two-hit, one-RBI performances for Montpellier, which won the game 7-0.
Canelón played a key role in Sunday’s second game as well, coming on in relief to close things out and secure an 8-6 victory. He picked up another win in the process — his second of the day and ninth of the season — and fanned two more batters, bringing his season total to 111 strikeouts. He also boasts a lights-out 0.58 ERA.
The team got some offensive help in the afternoon game from two of Canelón’s countrymen, shortstop Larry Infante, who scored a pair of runs, and third-baseman Andrés Martínez, who went two-for-five at the plate with an RBI — his team-leaning 23rd of the season — and two runs scored.
The day’s most impressive offensive performance, however, came from La Rochelle’s Jesse Baker, a former All-American from Florida, who went seven-for-nine in the two games combined with a homerun, a double and three RBIs. Baker upped his batting average to .422 and now has 43 hits on the season, tops in the league.
His team, though, has yet to win a post-season game and sits dead last in the playoff standings, with a 2-12 overall record. Next up for the Boucaniers are the Lions of Savigny-sur-Orge, where the two teams will meet on Sunday, July 21.
The Lions got off to a good start early in the playoffs but have struggled since. Sunday’s games against the visiting Cougars of Montigny-le-Bretonneux were no exception.
Shaking off the previous weekend’s heartbreak losses to Montpellier, the Cougars came to Savigny-sur-Orge ready to play, beating the host team twice: 7-1 and 6-2.
Venezuelan pitcher Yorfrank Lopez threw for eight solid innings, giving up just one run and striking out eight in the opener. The Montigny club also benefited from some timely hitting by Daniel Patrice, who went three-for-five with a triple and three RBIs.
Savigny-sur-Orge’s dynamic duo of Ivan Acuña (Venezuela) and Yeixon Ruiz (the Dominican Republic) collected four hits between them, but the rest of the Lions roster went hitless in the contest.
The Lions mustered a bit more offense in the second game, scoring two runs, but still fell far short of what they’d need to beat the Cougars, who again got three hits from Patrice. Montigny’s Rafael Jimenez (Spain) also had a solid game at the plate, going two-for-four with a pair of RBIs and two runs scored.
With the two road wins, Montigny-le-Bretonneux now has a 5-9 overall record against playoff teams. The Cougars continue, nevertheless, to trail the Lions (6-8) in the post-season standings. After two straight weekends on the road, the Montigny squad will be at home next Sunday to host the Huskies.
By Benjamin Witte (email@example.com)