After a final weekend of pool play that saw the top teams continue their winning ways, the best-of-the-best now move on to the French Summer League (FSL) championship round, which kicks off Saturday (Sept. 18) in Sénart*.
Four teams will compete for bragging rights in this upside-down season that wasn’t, because of the coronavirus, but then was, in a kinda sorta way, in the form of the 11-team FSL. The mixed-level league began in early August, with three rounds of weekend pool play, the last of which took place Sept. 12/13 in St-Aubin-De-Medoc, near Bordeaux, and La Guerche, outside of Rennes.
The two teams with the best overall records — the La Rochelle Boucaniers (6-0) and Paris UC (6-0) — face each other Saturday starting at 3 p.m. in the first of the day’s two semi-final games. Stade Toulousain and Nice Cavigal, both 5-1, meet in the second semi-final game, which begins at 7 p.m.
The two winners will face off Sunday, starting at 2 p.m., in the FSL title game. The other two teams meet earlier in the day (first pitch at 10:30 a.m.) for a bronze-medal game.
All four teams participated last year in France’s elite division, the semi-pro D1, which was delayed and eventually cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the other teams in the FSL compete normally at the second-division (D2) level.
The coast vs. the capital
With the weaker teams now out of the picture, Saturday’s semi-final games have the potential to be highly competitive and should definitely be fun to watch.
First up is the battle of the two undefeated squads, La Rochelle and Paris UC:
The Boucaniers were absolutely dominant in pool play, outscoring their opponents by a combined 70-7. French player Maxence Esteban and Jesse Baker of the United States led the club on the offensive end. Both are batting .600, with six hits apiece. Also, they have a combined 15 walks and 23 runs scored. Player/manager Forrest Crawford has been on fire as well, batting .500 with eight hits and a team leading 11 RBIs.
Led by their red-hot Chilean pitcher, Pablo Ossandon (0.00 ERA in 11 innings pitched with 12 K), the Boucaniers have been great on the mound as well, boasting an FSL best team ERA of 1.69.
The gaudy numbers aside, La Rochelle will have their work cut out for them against the gutsy PUC squad, which earned their perfect record the hard way, eking out several tight wins in what was arguably the most competitive of the FSL’s four pools (three of their six victories were by a single run).
Amin Touahri and Douglas Rodríguez have both been swinging the bat extremely well, and on the pitching end, the Parisians have a veritable ace up their sleeve in the person of Harvey García, a right-hander from Venezuela who briefly played in the Majors, appearing in several games for the Florida Marlins.
Satuday’s afternoon contest should be entertaining as well. Stade Toulousain lost their first and only game of the FSL last weekend, falling 5-9 to the Blue Jays of Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc. With that exception, however, the group has been en fuego, and has a league-best .414 team batting average.
Yosinel Rodríguez and Sergio Mendoza are batting .600 and .545 respectively for Toulouse, and are tied for the league lead in hits, with 12 each. Teammate Luís Delogu has a pair of homeruns, and on the pitching end, Franklin De La Rosa has 14 K in just eight innings pitched to go along with a perfect 0.00 ERA.
But led by two-way star Jonathan Montas, Nice has had a nice FSL run as well. Montas is batting .533 with eight hits (four of them doubles) AND, in 11 innings of pitching work, collected 22 K, tops in the league. Second on the strikeout list is his teammate Cyril Grimaldi, who had 18 K in 11 innings, and has a 0.00 ERA despite giving up seven hits and eight walks.
*All four of the weekend’s games will take place at Templiers Stadium in Lieusaint, south of Paris. Admission is free but for health reasons, visitors are required to wear face masks at all times. For directions to the venue, click here.