As the regular phase of France’s D1 baseball season inches toward the finish line, four teams — the Rouen Huskies, Savigny Lions, Sénart Templiers and Montpellier Barracudas — continue to stand out above the rest and are all but guaranteed to meet in the league semi-finals, beginning Sept. 26.
Big questions remain, neverthless, about who will face whom exactly given that in both of the D1’s two pools, first place — and thus a chance to take on the other group’s second-place finisher in a best-of-five playoff series — is still very much up for grabs.
There’ll be plenty of drama, in other words, in the final stretch of the season, as the leaders — Rouen and Savigny in Pool A and Montpellier and Sénart in Pool B — continue to fight for their respective group’s top spot.
Who let the dogs out?
In Pool A, there’s plenty of excitement already, as a late-season surge by the Huskies, the defending D1 champs, has them suddenly ahead of Savigny in the standings.
Winners of four straight coming into the weekend, Rouen rattled off two more victories Sunday, this time at the expense of Paris UC, to improve their record to 9-4 and push past the Lions (8-4) into sole possesion of first place.
Pitcher Esteban Prioul started the first game for the visiting Huskies, and served up a gem, giving up just one hit in six innings to move to 4-1 on the season. Rouen won the contest 8-0 and then piled up even more points in the afteroon game, beating Paris UC 13-3 behind a solid pitching performace by Quentin Moulin, who went five innings and gave up three runs on four hits.
On the offensive side, the Huskies benefitted from some hot hitting by Hugo Blondel, who went 4-for-10 on the day with four RBIs, and Joris Bert, who went 3-for-6 with three runs scored and an RBI of his own.
Boosting the club’s hopes of vying once again for a D1 title is the return of Venezuelan ace Yoimer Camacho, who dominated the league in 2019 and, in two relief appearances so far this season, looks like he’s still got the stuff. Taking over for Moulin on Sunday, Camacho gave up just one hit in four shutout innings.
A tale of two games
The Savigny Lions, in contrast, have stumbled of late and got another bitter dose of disappointment Sunday in the opener of a double-header in Toulouse.
In that game, the home team – Stade Toulousain – cashed in on an inspired outing by Venezuelan hurler Keivy Rojas, who gave up just a single hit and struck out 10 in seven innings.
Down 2-0 in the top of the ninth, Savigny scored a run off reliever Mathias Lacombe and, with a runner on third still and just one out, looked poised to complete the comeback. The young French pitcher kept his cool, however, and locked in for the final two outs to pick up his second save of the season.
The afternoon game was an entirely different story. The Lions went on the attack early and kept the offense going throughout, crushing the Tigers 12-1.
Pitcher Lillian Amoros (3-1, 1.99 ERA) impressed once again, and Savigny’s star-studded lineup, with the likes of French national team players Ivan Acuña and Jacques Boucheron, along with Alfredo Angarita, a stand-out talent from Venezuela, reminded everyone why on their best days, the Lions are a force to be reckoned with.
Acuña (.333) and Boucheron (.389) combined for five hits in the contest, with two RBIs a piece, and Angarita, playing DH, went 1-for-1 to boost his season average to a sizzling .481. Outfielder Tom Dahan (.286) showed up as well, going 2-4 with a pair of RBIs.
The afternoon victory keeps Savigny within striking distance of the Huskies, although to catch up, they’ll most likely need to win both games next Sunday (Aug. 15), when the two squads meet in Rouen for a decisive double-header.
Masters of the mound
Pool B’s top teams, the Barracudas and Templiers, also have a head-to-head matchup on the horizon, albeit the weekend after next, in Sénart. The high-stakes showdown begins Saturday night game (Aug. 21) with a second game scheduled for Aug. 22.
In the meantime, the two clubs keep winning, winning, and winning. Neither, in fact, has lost a game yet this season, with Montpellier now 14-0 after taking two on the road Sunday (3-1 and 5-0) against the Clermont-Ferrand Arvenes, and Sénart at 12-0 after a pair of home wins (11-4 and 5-3) this weekend against the visiting La Rochelle Boucaniers.
For Montpellier, the difference once again was the team’s phenomenal pitching. Righty Owen Ozanich (4-0, 0.31 ERA) took care of business in the opener, blanking the Arvenes through five innings, while lefty Kevin Canelón of Venezuela baffled Clermont-Ferrand’s lineup in the afternoon game, also going five innings to pick up his sixth win of the season. To date, Canelón has an ERA of… una cosa bien loca… 0.00 !
The Barracudas benefited as well from some timely contributions at the plate. Their speedy leadoff man, Paolo Brossier (.265), went a combined 3-for-6, with two RBIs and two runs scored. American import Andy Cosgrove (.333) got two hits on the day, as did both Nolan Soliveres and Mathis Nayral.
Like Montpellier, the undefeated Sénart squad has a deep pitching staff that has performed well all season, with a team ERA of 2.07, second only to the Barracudas (1.19 ERA).
But it’s on offense that the Templiers really excell. Led by players like Andy Paz (.465), a former Oakland Athletics prospect, and veterans Felix Brown (.444) and Alexander Perdomo (.367), they boast the league’s top team average at .313.
Paz is tied for second in the D1 in hits, with 22, and leads the league in RBIs with 16. Second on the list is teammate Mohammed Baoui, with 13.
Playing at home Sunday against the Boucaniers, Sénart scorched the visitors for 11 runs in the first game (11-4). The afternoon contest was a bit closer (5-3) but still ended up in the win column for the undefeated Templiers, who travel north next weekend to face the Metz Cometz.
A dominant Dominican
The weekend’s fifth and final matchup took place in the far southeast of France, in sunny Nice, home of Nice Cavigal. The Aigles, as they’re also known, were Pool B’s last-place team coming into the double-header, but showed some serious spunk against the visiting Cometz, clawing tooth and nail to win the first, by a score 4-3, and then busting out for a beatdown in the second (13-4).
One bright spot all season for Nice Cavigal is the play of Dominican cather/pitcher Jonathan Montes, who shined again Sunday, going 5-for-8 overall (including a home run) to add to his league-leading hit total. He now has 29 on the season to go along with a .468 average, tops in the D1 among players with at least 30 at-bats.
Another standout for Nice is Naoki Teramura, a Japanese import who struck out 12 in the opener en route to winning his third game of the season. He now has 66 Ks on the season, second in the league after American import Stephen Fleury of Metz, who has 69 but has yet to win a game.
And that — for now at least — is all she wrote…
For more detailed information on the D1 schedule and stats, visit the FFBS web site