SÉNART — The fat lady hasn’t taken up her tune quite yet, but unless the Sénart Templiers can mount a comeback for the ages, their chances of keeping the Rouen Huskies from winning yet another French baseball crown will soon slip away.
Hosting the perennial powerhouse Huskies this past weekend for the first two games of the D1 league’s best-of-five championship series, the Templiers had every reason to believe they could win one if not both matches. This, after all, was the year that Sénart’s streak of ill fortune against Rouen — the daily Le Parisien went so far as to call it a malédiction (curse) — showed signs of finally ending.
But come Saturday night, as the players warmed up for Game 1, whatever visions Sénart may have had of making an early mark in the series were washed away by a downright dismal downpour.
After about an hour-long rain delay, an attempt was made to let the teams play regardless. Mother Nature had other ideas, however, and officials were eventually forced to call the whole thing off.
Maybe there is something to this malédiction theory.
That left the teams no choice but to play a Sunday double-header — standard fare for the D1 — although at game time, stormy conditions threatened to rain on that parade as well. Fortunately, by early afternoon, the wind, rain and menacing clouds finally blew away.
In the meantime, the Huskies steadily blew the Templiers away. The visitors raced to a 5-0 lead in the opening game en route to an easy 9-2 victory. Brendan Jenkins, one of two American pitchers signed by Sénart this year as part of a roster overhaul, gave up six of those runs on 10 hits.
In the second game, the home team’s other U.S. pitcher, Joe Rivera, fared even worse, giving up nine runs on 11 hits. The one bright spot for the Templiers was catcher Daniel Jackson, a California native, who went five-for-nine in the two games with a triple and a homerun.
“I didn’t think we competed very well today,” Jackson told me after the games. “I don’t think we came out here wanting to win. It was windy and rainy to start off, and I think guys were just, ‘I don’t want to play in this.’ It’s frustrating, especially because we’ve had a such a good year, but all the success we’ve had isn’t wasted and we’re going to play hard next weekend in Rouen.”
They’d better, because the Huskies are now just one victory away from claiming their fifth straight D1 title and 14th in the past 15 years. Game 3 takes place next Saturday in Rouen, starting at 3 p.m. If necessary, the teams will play one or two games the following day, Aug. 25.
The odds are clearly in favor of the defending champions, although as Jackson noted, Sénart really has had a special year. Thanks in large part to the additions of Jenkins, Jackson, Rivera and a fourth U.S. recruit — a former Milwaukee Brewers prospect named Carlos Belonis — the Templiers posted the league’s best regular season record, at 19-1. They also beat Rouen in the Challenge de France, a mid-season tournament held in Montpellier.
They’ll need to muster up that same magic come Saturday, and then keep things rolling through two games on Sunday. Stranger things have certainly happened. That being said, the Huskies have no intention of rolling over.
“We have the chance to finish it up on Saturday and celebrate at home. That’d be awesome,” said Ariel Soriano, a star infielder for Rouen who went five-for-eight on the day with two triples, two RBIs and five runs scored. “I’m really happy. I feel great,” he added. “It’s nice to really contribute to the team like that.”
By Benjamin Witte (email@example.com)