Summer’s officially over. Sniff sniff. Et oui, while there was plenty of baseball action of late with the Challenge followed shortly after by the Euros in Italy, France’s D1 season — on hold for about a month now — seems to have faded into oblivion.
But guess what? League play is about to resume and, if anything, the best is yet to come, starting with a high-stakes showdown this weekend between the league’s top two teams.
As things stand now, the Sénart Templiers have the D1’s best record at 17-1. But are they really the team to beat? Quite possibly, given their loaded lineup, deep pitching, and the success they enjoyed in late August, when then went head-to-head against then undefeated Montpellier Barracudas (16-2) and beat them back-to-back.
Two weeks later, however, it was Montpellier’s turn to celebrate when they topped the Templiers during the eight-team Challenge de France — normally a mid-season tournament but held late this year because of the long coronavirus delay — and then went on to the win the event in a rout over the defending D1 champion Rouen Huskies.
Which team, then, has the edge moving forward? The answer to that question may come this Sunday, Sept. 26, when the two D1 titans (weather permitting) clash at Montpellier’s Greg Hamilton Baseball Park for the final two games of the regular season.
Both squads have already clinched their spots in the D1 semi-finals, where they’ll meet the Huskies and Savigny Lions, the top finishers in the league’s A Pool. Yet to be determined, however, is who will face whom, and that’s where the Sénart-Montpellier rematch — with start times at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. — comes in.
If the Templiers win at least one of the two games, they’ll finish first in their pool and play the Lions in a best-of-five series beginning Oct. 3 in Savigny. The Barracudas, in that case, would play the Huskies, in Montpellier, starting that same Sunday. But if Montpellier can win both games against Sénart, then the semi-finals scenario would be reversed.
Adding to the drama is the fact that five players on each squad just spent about two weeks together playing for the French national team. From rivals to teammates, guys like Andy Paz, José Andrés Paula and Felix Brown of Sénart, and Owen Ozanich, Paolo Brossier and Nolan Soliveres of Montpellier will once again be competing against each other.
The playoffs will resume the weekend of Oct. 9/10, and starting on Oct. 17, the two finalists will begin another best-of-five series, this time to determine the league champion. The other two teams will do likewise to determine which finishes in third place.
Playing for pride
Elsewhere, six teams that failed to make the playoffs — the Montigny Cougars, Metz Cometz, Stade Toulousain, La Rochelle Boucaniers, Nice Cavigal and Paris UC — will meet starting Sunday in what’s known as the “playdown” phase to determine the league’s final standings.
The top four finishers will earn a spot in next year’s Challenge de France tournament (along with the four semi-finalists). The winner of that tournament gets a berth in the following year’s CEB Cup, an inter-league event featuring top clubs from around Europe.
Like in the playoffs, the playdown teams will compete in best-of-five series. The Cometz (7-13) play a pair Sunday against the visiting Cougars (9-7). Stade Toulousain (6-10) hosts the Boucaniers (8-12). And Nice Cavigal (5-15) travels to the capital for a double-header against Paris UC (3-13).
All of Sunday’s games have start times of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
For more info on scheduling, results and stats, visit the FFBS website.