The regular phase of the D1 baseball season is just about over following a pair of spillover matchups Sunday that, among other things, marked a new milestone for the winningest pitcher in French baseball history.
In La Rochelle — which plays host starting Thursday to the Challenge de France tournament — the visiting Sénart Templiers pushed their league-best record to 17-1 with a double-victory over the hometown Boucaniers (8-12).
After taking two the previous weekend against the Montpellier Barracudas (16-2), the Templiers picked up where they left off, beating La Rochelle easily in the opener behind another strong outing for pitcher Sam Belisle-Springer.
The French-Canadian (1.18 ERA) gave up just one hit in five dominant innings to move to 5-0 on the season, while on the offensive end, the squad benefited from timely hits up and down the lineup. Among those was a sixth-inning, two-RBI double by former Oakland A’s prospect Andy Paz, who leads the league in RBIs, with 21, and is second in average (.453) behind Savigny’s Alfredo Angarita (.465), a Venezuelan import.
Sénart had to sweat it out a bit more in the afternoon game despite the heroics of Felix Brown, who collected two hits, including a sixth-inning home run, his second of the season. The veteran infielder is now batting a sizzling .404, is tied for third in the league with 17 runs scored, and is also among the leaders in total bases with 33.
Down 3-1 after seven, the Boucaniers refused to go down easily, picking up a run in the eighth and threatening again in the bottom of the ninth thanks to a one-out single by Ramiro Milar (.347). The Argentine import finishes the regular season with 25 hits, good for third in the league behind Nice Cavigal’s Jonathan Montas (33) and Andy Paz (29) of the Templiers.
In the end, though, Sénart’s Heorhii Hvrytishvili kept La Rochelle completing the rally, and with a three-inning, three-strikeout performance, picked up his first save of the year to give his team a season sweep over the Boucaniers.
The day’s other matchup took place in Rouen, where the defending D1 champion Huskies had their hands (paws?) full against a team that’s been red-hot of late but was nevertheless bumped, the weekend before, from playoff contention.
Playing for pride, the Montigny Cougars — winners of six straight coming into the contest — were all claws and teeth in the opener, picking up a pair of runs against Rouen starter Esteban Prioul. They scored two more against ace Yoimer Camacho of Venezuela, and then unloaded on reliever Theophile Danne, scoring seven runs on seven hits.
Montigny’s Alexandre Couton (.362), Gabriel Do Carmo (.357), Dylan Mayeux (.302) and Raul Rivas (.278) all had multiple hits in the game, and the starting pitcher for the Cougars, Alexander Santana (1.38 ERA), dominated on the mound, giving up just three hits in six innings to move to 4-0 on the season.
Rouen turned things around in the afternoon game, however, thanks to a rare start (at least these days) for their manager/pitcher Keino Perez, a veritable legend in French baseball, who blanked the Cougars in six strong innings to win his first game of the season but 118th overall — a D1 record — since moving to France from Venezuela.
With the win, the Huskies finish the regular season with a record of 12-4, good enough for first place in Pool A. In second place are the Savigny Lions (10-6), followed by the Cougars (9-7), whose late season surge came to little to late to earn a spot in the league semi-finals but could spell trouble for opposing teams in the upcoming Challenge de France tournament, which kicks off this Thursday in La Rochelle and Pineuilh.
As things stand now, Rouen will face Montpellier when the playoffs begin, on Sept. 26. But that could still change if the Barracudas can win their final two regular season games, on Sept. 12, when the Templiers come to town for a last clash of the Pool B titans.
Should Sénart win at least one of those games, they’ll finish first in the pool and take on Savigny in the playoffs. Otherwise they’ll go against Rouen in what would be a rematch of the last D1 finals series, in 2019.
For more information on D1 scheduling and stats, visit the FFBS website.