C’est chaud! Templiers, Barracudas Showdown Looms As D1 Action Heats Up

Shortstop Patrick Cromwell picked up three hits last weekend (Credit: Benjamin Witte)

The D1 baseball season is still young, but after three weekends of play a few teams are managing to stand out above the crowd, and two of them — the Sénart Templiers (4-0) and Montpellier Barracudas (6-0) — face off Sunday for what promises to be a must-see doubleheader.

With the delayed start to the season, Montpellier has scrambled to assemble all of its various roster pieces, but is looking stronger by the week, especially on the pitching end, with the recent arrival of lefty Erly Cassanova from Cuba.

The veteran hurler, 1-0 after a dominating performance last weekend against the winless Clermont-Ferrand Arvenes (0-6), joins a super-staff that also includes righty Owen Ozanich and lefty Kevin Canelón, who have five wins between them and both boast an unblemished 0.00 ERA.

Montpellier’s Cuban import, Erly Cassanova (B. Witte)

Montpellier’s big-three will have their work cut out for themselves come Sunday, however, when they host the power-packed Templiers, who were off last weekend due to COVID protocol precautions.

Like the Barracudas, the Templiers have yet to test themselves against the league’s top contenders. Still, they have to feel go about what they have shown so far, especially on the offensive end.

With a stacked lineup that includes the likes of Andy PazAriel Soriano, and Felix Brown — all former national-team members — plus guys like Oliver Van Der Wijst of the Netherlands, Brandt Holland of the United States, and Jimmy Mapakou, who played college ball this past Spring in Iowa, it’s easy to see why Sénart has the league’s top team batting average at .317.

Montpellier’s starting pitchers will need their best stuff to contain the Templier’s big bats. They’ll also need some offense of their own, and can only hope that guys like Ismail Pontiac (.500) and Fabien Kovacs (.407) — who have 24 hits between them to lead all D1 duos — keep up their hot start to the season.

Young guns Kovacs (left) and Pontiac are all smiles at 6-0 (B. Witte)

The Barracudas will also get a boost with the arrival of cather Andy Cosgrove of the United States, a former Minnesota Twins prospect who joins the club late after a successful stint in Prague.

Things are looking up for Montpellier’s other American recruit as well. Shortstop Patrick Cromwell struggled to find his offense early, but broke out in last Sunday’s afternoon game with a 3-for-5 performance that could bode well for the weeks ahead.

It’s anyone’s guess, in other words, how the big Sénart-Montpellier showdown will play out. The only thing for certain is that after the doubleheader in Montpellier (games begin at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.), at least one of the teams will no longer have a perfect record.

A cat fight

Another team to keep an eye on in this early phase of the season is the Savigny Lions, who had a bi-week to start things off but have since gone 3-1 and are currently in sole possession of first place in the league’s “A” pool, ahead of Paris UC (2-2), the Rouen Huskies (3-3), Stade Toulousain (2-2) and the Montigny Cougars (2-4).

Last weekend, in a battle of the big cats, the Lions took both games in a doubleheader against the Cougars. Former MLB pitcher Mauricio Robles (0.82 ERA) of Venezuela picked up his second win of the season, and fellow Venezuelan Alfredo Angarita (.500), the squad’s speedy shortstop, collected five hits on the day to bring his season total to eight in just four games played.

Mauricio Robles brings a wealth of Big League experience (B. Witte)

Savigny next travels to Toulouse for a Sunday showdown against Stade Toulousain, who split a pair last weekend against the defending champion Rouen Huskies. Pitcher Jhon Garci is now 2-0 on the season for Toulouse, which is being led on the offensive end by two-way player Franklin De La Rosa (.286).

The La Rochelle Boucaniers will be interesting to follow too as the season moves forward. Like the Templiers, they’re sitting on a perfect 4-0 record but weren’t able to play last weekend as planned. Those games, against Sénart, have been rescheduled for later in the summer.

The squad has gotten a big boost on the offensive end with the arrival of Ramiro Milar (.471), an Italian-Argentine who has eights hits and seven RBIs in just four games played. Catcher Theo Lakmeche (.429) has been rock solid as well, and on the pitching end, Rayner Oliveros (1-0) and Wilce Nieves (2-0) have been sharp, posting ERAs of 1.59 and 1.80 respectively.

The Boucaniers, winners of last year’s French Summer League, head to Nice this weekend for a Sunday doubleheader against Nice Cavigal and a chance to push their record to 6-0.

For more information on scheduling and D1 stats, visit the FFBS website.

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