LA ROCHELLE — The decisive third day of the Challenge de France baseball tournament began where things left off the night before, with a big dose of drama and confusion. It ended, however, on a very different note, with a no-doubter result between the Montpellier Barracudas and Savigny Lions.
First, la polémique! Suspended less than halfway through the eighth inning due to visibility problems (night had fallen), Friday’s evening matchup between to La Rochelle Boucaniers and Sénart Templiers was scheduled to resume early this morning.
But given the stakes — a berth in the event’s semi-final round — the host team, livid still that the umpires hadn’t simply ended the game after the seventh, registered a formal complaint. Keep in mind that at the start of the eighth inning, the underdog Boucaniers were up 4-1, but then gave up two runs, with Sénart threatening to score even more, before the game was halted.
In the end, French baseball’s governing body, the FFBS, opted to ignore La Rochelle’s laments and give the green light for play to resume, and the Templiers, having caught up on some well needed sleep, took advantage.
After the game finally got going again, at around 10 a.m., they scored yet another run before that fateful eighth finally came to an end, then added two more in the top of the ninth. The Boucaniers, unable to get anything going against Sam Belisle-Springer of Quebec, the pitcher Sénart brought in to put them over the top, couldn’t bounce back, and ended up losing the contest 4-6.
A pitcher’s duel
If anything, though, it would prove to a pyrrhic victory for the Templiers, who then had to play their arch rivals, the Rouen Huskies, almost immediately afterwards in the first of the day’s two semi-final games.
Despite the extra work put in just before, Belisle-Springer took the mound in that game as well, and did a sensational job, going seven strong and giving up just two runs on four hits, one of them a solo home run by Rouen’s left fielder, Joris Bert. The Canadian hurler also collected 13 strikeouts.
Unfortunately, the effort was all for naught, given that Rouen’s starter, Yoimer Camacho of Venezuela, was even more dominant. Maybe it was the fatigue from playing just about non-stop since early afternoon the previous day, but Sénart simply couldn’t handle the hard-throwing righthander, who pitched a complete game, giving up just one run and striking out 14.
Final score: 2-1 Huskies, who move on to tomorrow’s title game.
From Cuba with love
From there the big question, of course, was which team would be joining them. The answer — delivered in no uncertain terms by another Latin American righty — is Montpellier.
Wrapping things up in just seven innings (due to FFBS slaughter rules), the Barracudas blanked the Savigny Lions 11-0 behind a phemonal game from pitcher Erly Casanova, who fanned 15 and allowed just a single hit.
More good news for Montpellier is how sharp they were on defense, and how balanced of an attack they put together. Eight of their nine starters collected at least one hit. Nicolas Khoury had two, and Clément Le Pichon — a day after hitting a grand slam — went 2-for-2 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Rouen and Montpellier meet tomorrow for all the glory — and a berth in next year’s inter-league CEB Cup — starting at 2 p.m. in La Rochelle.
For more information on scheduling and stats, visit the FFBS website. To follow the action live, download the Baseball TV France app, available at Google Play Store and App Store.