With just a few weeks remaining in the regular phase of France’s D1 baseball season, two clubs in particular — both of them in Pool B — are letting it be known that Rouen’s reign as perennial champs could be in jeopardy.
The first, the undefeated Montpellier Barracudas, took advantage once again this weekend of their dynamic pitching rotation to dominate the opposition, in this case the visiting Metz Cometz, whose lineup struggled to gain traction first against lefty Kevin Canelón, the starter in the opener of their Sunday double-header, and then against Cuban right-hander Erly Casanova.
Canelón pitched a seven-inning gem in the opener to beat the Cometz 12-2 and move to 5-0 on the season. The Venezuelan ace gave up just one hit — to the Metz designated hitter Remy Mangeat — and struck out 10. Amazingly, he also has an ERA of… wait for it… 0.00 (the two runs he gave up in the game were unearned)! And in nearly 35 innings pitched this season he has yet to walk a batter. Ya basta!
Casanova had his own sensational outing in the afternoon game, blanking the visitors in six innings of work, with 9 strikeouts and just three hits allowed. The hard-throwing Cuban, 4-0 on the season, gave the Barracudas their league-best 12th win, all but assuring the team one of the pool’s two playoff spots.
Not that they needed it much, but Montpellier is also proving that they can put up the points. After an early season slump, shortstop Patrick Cromwell continued to shine at the plate, collecting three hits on the day — two of them triples — to up his average to .304. The former Clemson University player now has four triples on the season, tops in the D1, and also leads the league in runs scored with 15, one more than teammate Fabian Kovacs (.400), who was 2-for-5 on the day with 2 RBIs.
Fellow U.S. import Andy Cosgrove has been solid too since arriving several weeks ago from the Czech Republic. The former Minnesota Twins prospect already leads the team with 9 RBIs (together with Julien Monks) and is batting .381. Special shout-out as well to Mael Zan, who went 4-for-7 on the day and has a more-than-impressive .474 average in six games played, and to Clement Lepichon, who went a cool 3-for-7 at the plate with two runs scored and an RBI.
Eyeing the prize
Not to be outdone, the league’s other powerhouse club, the Sénart Templiers, kept their unbeaten record alive as well, scoring 10 runs in the first game and 11 in the second to beat visiting Nice Cavigal twice on Sunday and move to a perfect 10-0 on the season.
Like Montpellier, the Templiers have a deep pitching rotation with guys like Shane Priest, formerly of the University of North Alabama, French-Canadian right-hander Sam Belisle-Springer, and fellow Canadian Jared Mortensen, a former Tampa Bay Rays prospect.
Led by veteran Félix Brown, former Oakland Athletics recruit Andy Paz, Dutch standout Oliver Van Der Wijst, and Jimmy Mapakou, a young Frenchman who spent this past year in the United States playing for the Lakers (of Iowa Lakes Community College, not Los Angeles), Sénart also boasts one of the league’s more fearsome lineups and clearly has its sights set on adding another D1 crown to its trophy case.
The Templiers last won the French baseball league in 2014, the one season since 2005 that the Rouen Huskies didn’t end up as D1 champs. The Barracudas haven’t won a title since three-peating in the mid 1990s (1993-1995) during the tenure of famed Canadian skipper Greg Hamilton.
Rouen, for its part, has struggled at times this season, giving Monptellier and Sénart all the more reason to feel good about their chances. But as the Huskies proved this past weekend, don’t count on them to roll over and play dead quite yet.
Hosting a pair at home against Stade Toulousain, the pack pounced early, trouncing the visitors 10-0 in the opener and then doubling down in the second game with a convincing 10-1 result.
Rouen’s first-game starter, Esteban Prioul, moved to 3-1 on the season, giving up just three hits in six innings while striking out 10. Helping the cause was veteran shortstop Maxime Lefevre, who went 3-for-4 in the contest with a pair of RBIs, and Louis Brainville, who also had three hits in the game to go along with 4 RBIs.
Giving the Huskies another huge reason to smile was the return, finally, of Venezuelan ace Yoimer Camacho, who pitched four innings late in the second game, striking out six and allowing just two hits. Camacho was a beast for Rouen in 2019, and his late-season arrival could be just the boost the Huskies need for another D1 title run.
With the two wins, Rouen moves to 7-3 on the season, putting them in a tie for first place in Pool A thanks in large part to a pair of surprising results in Savigny-sur-Orge, where the hometown Lions — a sizzling 7-1 coming into the day — dropped not one but two games Sunday to the visiting Montigny Cougars.
So far this season, the Lions, with a team batting average of .304, have had little trouble producing points. But in the first game against Montigny — and despite collecting eight hits off starter Alexander Santana — they struggled to capitalize. The Cougars, in the meantime, took advantage of some timely hitting by guys like Jean Scavo and Jonathan Jaspe, each with 2 RBIs in the contest, to win 8-2.
Montigny showed real grit in the afternoon game as well, eking out a 5-4 victory despite a late rally by the Lions, who scored three runs in the eight inning — two of them off a double by Pierre Emmanuel Planes (.313) — but couldn’t, in the end, claw all the way back. Helping the cause for the visitors was a sixth-inning solo shot by Dylan Mayeux (.316), brother of France’s ‘favorite Ragin’ Cajun,’ NCAA softball star Mélissa Mayeux.
Savigny will definitely be looking to rebound next weekend, when they travel to Toulouse for a Sunday double-header. Rouen will also be on the road, in their case to take on Paris UC at Stade Pershing in the French capital.
The weekend’s fifth and final matchup took place in beautiful La Rochelle, when the hometown Boucaniers dropped their opener (1-4) to the visiting Clermond-Ferrand Arvenes but bounced back in a big way to win the afternoon game 13-3.
Clermont-Ferrand’s Jacob Benson (.368) collected two hits on the day and now has 21 on the season, second in the league behind Nice’s Jonathan Montas (.436), who has 24 overall after a seven-hit performance on Sunday.
Hot on their heels is La Rochelle’s Ramiro Milar, who is having a fabulous first season in the D1. A dual Italian-Argentine citizen, Milar is batting a sensational .463 with 19 hits (third in the league), six of them doubles (he’s #1 in that category), and 10 RBIs. Against the Arvenes he went 5-for-8 on the day with 3 RBIs.
With the split, the Boucaniers move to 6-6, putting them in third place in Pool B behind Mbontpellier and Sénart. The Arvenes are 4-10, as are the Metz Cometz. Nice Cavigal is in last place in the group at 2-12.
In Pool A, Stade Toulousain, at 5-7, is in third place (behind the 7-3 Huskies and Lions). With their two upset wins, Montigny moves to 4-6. And in last place is Paris UC, at 3-7.
For more info on results, stats and scheduling, visit the FFBS web page.