The last team not called the Rouen Huskies to win France’s semi-pro D1 baseball league were the Sénart Templiers, who took the title in 2014 before losing to Rouen in three of the next five championship series (2016, 2017 and 2019).
Go back a few years before that, however, and Rouen’s stiffest competition came from another club in the southern outskirts of Paris: the Lions of Savigny-sur-Orge. Grrrrr!
Finalists in 2005 and again in both 2009 and 2010, Savigny also has five — that’s right, FIVE!— D1 titles to its credit, having won the league in 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002 and, most recently, in 2004.
It’s been a while, granted, since they reached the proverbial mountaintop, but the Lions have a proud tradition and a commitment to success. And with the core they brought to the table in 2019 (prior to last year’s pandemic pause), plus a crop of new recruits, they look primed to make some noise when the D1 returns, starting the weekend of April 23/24.
Fourth place finishers in the 2019 campaign, Savigny packed an offensive punch thanks, in large part, to its dynamic duo of Jacques Boucheron, a D1 veteran who had another monster year at the plate (.397 average, with a team-leading 12 doubles and 20 RBIs), and Ivan Acuña, a D1 newcomer at the time who hit a sizzling .409, tops in the league among players with at least 100 at-bats.
Both stars will be back this year, along with Axel Amoros, who hit .324 in 2019 and also came out blazing in last year’s COVID-shorted Suzanne Bricaud Challenge, when he collected 10 hits in just 21 at-bats (.476).
The experience in the Suzanne Bricaud Challenge, in which the Lions went 6-2 against a field that included D1 rivals Rouen, Montigny and Paris UC, could serve them well. Savigny also has to feel good about the talent they’ll be adding on the recruitment end.
Teenager Kosta Coureau, now in his third year at the Pôle France national baseball academy in Toulouse, will be heading to the Lions as an outfielder. This will actually be a homecoming of sorts for Corueau, who most recently played for Stade Toulousain but spent time with Savigny before that.
Joining him in the outfield will be another French national, Leó Jiminian, a Pôle France alum who now plays for Clarendon College in Texas alongside pitcher Lilian Amoros, also a member of the Savigny Lions.
Amoros, who turned 20 just last month, earned a call-up last year to the French national team and traveled to Arizona, where he and Savigny teammates Boucheron and Acuña spent two weeks training with the legendary MLB skipper Bruce Bochy. The plan was to play in a qualifier tournament for the next World Baseball Classic, but on the eve of Team France’s first game, organizers had to cancel the event due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Joining him in the rotation will be returnin pitcher Evertz Orozco, a Nicaraguan national and former Atlanta Braves prospect who went 2-2 for the Lions in 2019 with a team-leading 1.37 ERA, and Gédéon Coste, a 25-year-old lefty.
The squad will also be bringing on a new and very experienced arm: super recruit Mauricio Robles, a 31-year-old Venezuelan who was previously affiliated with various MLB organizations (including the Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox( and even made it briefly to The Show (with the Phillies)!*
Last but not least on the list of new Lions is Venezuelan import Alfredo Angarita, a former Houston Astros prospect who also has recent experience in the high-caliber Venezuelan Winter League, also known as the Liga Venezolana de Béisbol Profesional (LVPB).
Ivan Acuña, who helped recruit the talented infielder and played alongside him in 2019/20 as a member of the LVPB’s Bravos de Margarita, describes the newcomer as “a quiet” guy who “lets his game speak for itself.”
“[Angarita] is a very, very good player. Solid all around. We’ll let him surprise everybody. I’m not going to give anything away,” Acuña told Le Baseblog.
In the regular phase of the upcoming season, Savigny will compete in Pool A, alongside the Montigny-le-Bretonneux Cougars, PUC Paris, Rouen Huskies and Stade Toulousain.
Their campaign will kick off with a battle of the big cats: an April 25 double header, in Montigny, against the Cougars. The following weekend they’ll take on Paris UC.
*This story was updated March 10 to include the information about Mauricio Robles