Fans love to keep track of individual statistics — batting average, home runs, ERA, strikeouts and the rest — but baseball and softball are, at the end of the day, very much team sports. And whether it’s in victory or defeat, the players who don the colors of their club and take the field do so together, as a unit. All for one, and one for all.
With that in mind, Le Baseblog wants to acknowledge some of France’s standout squads, including our choice for ‘Team Of The Year.’ But before we get to that, let’s first take a look at some of the less obvious contenders, starting with the Valenciennes Vipères.
This was, by all accounts, a rough year for the Valenciennes club’s top-division (D1) baseball team, which lost their first 22 games. Ouch! Keep in mind, though, that the season before, the Vipères were in France’s third division.
Not only that, but despite their dismal start, the club refused to give up, and eventually won a couple of games, beating Paris UC — twice — to give themselves a first taste of victory at the D1 level.
It’s that same team spirit that kept the Blue Jays of Saint-Aubin de Médoc from throwing in the towel after going down 0-10 in the under-18 title game, in early October. The defending champion Montpellier Barracudas looked primed for a repeat. But the Jays dug deep, scoring a flurry of runs in the final two innings to win the competition for the first time in club history.
Speaking of digging deep, hats off to the national women’s softball team, which got off to a blazing start in the Women’s European Championship, in the Czech Republic, and kept its hopes alive for a berth in the 2020 Olympic Games by finishing sixth in the tournament. It was just the third top-six finish for the French national team, and the first since 1995!
And then there are the teams that make a habit of dominating. Such is the case of the Rouen Huskies, which came into the season having won four straight D1 titles but faced a formidable adversary in the Sénart Templiers.
Sénart not only posted the league’s best record in the regular phase of the season, but also beat Rouen in the Challenge de France tournament, in May. But as the summer unfolded, the Huskies built momentum and, come August, in the opening games of the D1 championship series against the Templiers, Rouen let the dogs out (so to speak), beating their rivals 9-2 and 9-3.
The Huskies went on to win the best-of-five series 3-1 to secure an incredible fifth straight title and 15th since 2003.
Another group with a flair for finishing on top are the Comanches of Saint-Raphaël (formerly of Toulon), which won France’s top-division of women’s softball for the 10th time — in as many years! — and boasted a league-best .452 team batting average.
And The Winner Is…
And yet, as impressive as both Rouen and Saint-Raphaël were and continue to be, Le Baseblog’s choice for 2019 ‘Team Of The Year’ goes to another group, one that until recently didn’t even exist: the French women’s baseball team.
For the first time in history, the FFBS (France’s baseball & softball federation) brought together the country’s top female hardball players, and for a very specific purpose: to compete in Europe’s inaugural women’s baseball championship, held in Rouen.
The pioneering group didn’t disappoint. After winning its opening match 4-3 against the Netherlands, the French team never looked back, winning all five of their matches in the three-nation tournament to capture the gold medal.
Standouts included the uber-talented shortstop Melissa Mayeux, who batted .500 in the tournament, and third-basewoman Marjorie Brunel, who batted .583 with 9 RBIs.
This may have been the first year for the French women’s baseball team, but it certainly won’t be the last. As of last week the group has a new coach, Lahcène Benhamida. And looking toward 2020 the French women also have a new — and even bigger — challenge ahead: the WBSC Women’s World Baseball Cup, which takes place next September in Mexico.
Allez les Bleues!
[…] also hosted the first such event, in 2019, and won! MVP honors went to Marjorie Brunel, who lives in Montpellier and plays first-division […]