And The Winners Are? 2019 Season Wrap-Up

For anyone who follows France’s top-division baseball league, this is OLD news — as in it happened nearly two months ago — but for everyone else, which is almost everyone in the world, here’s the news flash: The Rouen Huskies won the D1 championship. Again.

The team from Normandy now has a convincing five consecutive Division 1 titles. Not only that, but they’ve won 14 of the past 15 league championships, their only loss coming in 2014, when the Sénart Templiers captured the crown. Talk about a dynasty.

Still, there was nothing inevitable about Rouen’s victory in this year’s finals. Their opponent, the Templiers, put together a formidable roster of their own for the 2019 campaign, bringing in a pair of hard-throwing pitchers — Jay Rivera of Puerto Rico and Brendan Jenkins, a California product — along with a talented catcher (Daniel Jackson) and speedy outfielder (Carlos Belonis), who led the league in triples with six. And during much of the regular season, Sénart actually looked like the team to beat.

On paper, in other words, the title appeared very much up for grabs. But when the best-of-five championship series kicked off, on Aug. 18, the visiting Huskies pounced, winning both halves of the Sunday double-header — and convincingly (9-2 and 10-3).

Rouen ace Yolmer Camacho led the league with 160 stikeouts (B. Witte)

Back home for the third game of the series, on Aug. 24, Rouen got off to an early lead and looked poised to win the league crown right then and there thanks to another dominating performance by star pitcher Yolmer Camacho of Venezuela, who struck out nine and kept the Templiers scoreless through eight innings.

But in the ninth, Sénart pulled off a season-saving comeback for the ages, scoring four runs on two hits — including a 2-RBI double by Jackson — and eventually winning the game 4-3.

Unfortunately for the Templiers, the late-inning heroics proved to be too little too late, especially since to win Game 3, they used both of their star pitchers. Jenkins, working on no days rest, got the nod to start Game 4, and then got off to a rough start, giving up four quick runs on four hits, including a 3-RBI double by Rouen slugger Bastien ‘Balou’ Dagneau.

Balou ended up with four RBIs in game. His teammate Junior Sosa of Venezuela had an even bigger day at the plate, going four-for-five with a homer and five RBIs. Rouen went on to the win the game (14-7) and the championship, and that, folks, was all she wrote. Hats off to the Huskies!

Season standouts

For the disappointed Templiers, one of the few bright spots in the series — besides the dramatic Game 3 finish — was the play of Daniel ‘DJ’ Jackson, a former Long Beach State standout from California who went an impressive 10-for-18 in the finals with five doubles, a triple, a home run and six RBIs.

HITS: The offensive barrage left Jackson with 52 hits on the season, tied for first in the D1 with Rouen’s Ariel Soriano, from the Dominican Republic. The two benefited, in this regard, by reaching the finals given that the FFBS — the governing body of baseball in France — considers all games played when compiling its season totals*.

Ariel Soriano tied for the league lead in hits with 52 (B. Witte)

RUNS: Soriano and Jackson also topped the league in runs scored, with 39 and 38 respectively. Sénart teammates Alex Perdomo and Felix Brown tied for third on the list with 35 runs.

HOMERUNS: Rouen’s Bastien Dagneau and Junior Sosa both finished the season with seven dingers, tops in the league. Three other players hit four home runs: Soriano (Rouen), Matt Deneau (Clermont-Ferrand) and Abraham Antepaz (Valenciennes).

RBIs: Despite missing the first two games of the finals, Dagneau was also the D1’s top RBI man in 2019, with 34. Jackson, Sosa and Brown each had 31 on the season, and Rafael Jimenez (Montigny) Andrés Martínez (Montpellier) and Ivan Acuña (Savigny) all finished with 30 (without the benefit of those four extra games).

Montpellier’s Andrés Martínez had a solid first season, batting .315 with 30 RBIs (B. Witte)

AVG: Acuña, a Venezuelan who moved to the United States to finish high school and play college ball, didn’t just knock in a bunch of runs this year. He was also the D1’s batting champ (among players with at least 100 at-bats), with a sizzling .409 average. Second on the list was his Savigny teammate Jacques Boucheron (.397), followed by Jonathan Montas of Nice (.394).

PITCHING: The league’s most dominant arms this year both hail from Venezuela: Montpellier’s Kevin Canelon finished 11-1 with a ridiculous 0.49 ERA, and Yolmer Camacho of Rouen went 14-0 with a 0.73 ERA and a league-leading 160 strikeouts. Metz teammates Mitchell Robinson and Nolan Watson also racked up their fair share of Ks, with 151 and 144 respectively.

*Click here for the FFBS’s complete list of D1 stats.

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