With one notable exception (more about that later), the 2022 baseball & softball seasons are now underway for the various French players enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities. And already, from hit streaks to home runs, there’s plenty of news to report.
Here’s a quick run-down, therefore, on what’s happening so far, starting with a young woman who made the leap, this past off-season, from a community college to an NCAA D1 school, where she’s now playing at the highest level in the land.
Steady as she goes
A junior (third-year student) from Saintes, in western France, Kimane Rogron had some sensational seasons at Trinity Valley Community College, in Texas, before transferring this past year to Texas A&M Corpus Christi, on the Gulf of Mexico.
Here’s the thing, though. Click of the “roster” tab on the school’s softball-team website, and Rogron is nowhere to be seen. What? Someone needs to get on that ASAP, because make no mistake, the young French woman is definitely an “Islander,” as the team is called. And she’s already making her mark.
The group is just 1-4 so far after kicking of their season last Friday against Western Kentucky University. And in that opening game, a 5-6 loss, Rogron went hitless. Since then, however, the French softball star has been a paragon of consistency, reaching base in all the Islanders’ subsequent games.
Rogron is now 4-for-14 on the season, with a respectable .285 average and… a four-game hitting streak! Trop bien.
Next up for the Islanders is a pair of home games, on Tuesday (Feb. 15), against Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Bursting out of the gates
With her arrival at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Rogron is one of just two French softballers playing right now at the NCAA D1 level. The other, of course, is Mélissa Mayeux, a senior (fourth-year student) at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, whose Ragin’ Cajuns are one of the top teams in the entire country.
The group proved that this past weekend, opening their season with five games in three days and winning all of them. Not only that, but the Ragin’ Cajuns have yet to allow a single run. In their latest victory, an 8-0 beatdown on Sunday over Tulsa, pitcher Kandra Lamb didn’t even give up a hit.
Mayeux sat on the bench in that game. That’s the thing about playing for a top-25 squad. The Ragin’ Cajuns are just oozing with talent, and so not every player has a chance to appear in every game. But of those first five games, the French star did start in two, and so far has two hits on the season in seven at bats (.286).
Shooting for the Stars
Another player who’s trying to make the most of this, his last year of collegiate sports in the United States, is Frédéric Walter, as Le Baseblog pointed out last week.
The nearly 24-year-old senior plays for Oklahoma City University (OCU), and both he and his team, the Stars, are off to a great start this season. The squad is now 6-1 after splitting a pair Sunday against Bellevue University, whose Bruins are ranked 24th in the NAIA, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Earlier in the weekend, the Stars beat an even higher ranked team, Oklahoma Wesleyan (9th), not once but twice — 5-0 and 6-5. Walter was hitless in the first of those two games, but was a difference maker in the second, collecting three RBIs.
After a red-hot start to the season, Walter has cooled somewhat, and so far has five hits in the 22 at bats. Two of those hits are home runs, though, and the masher from Montigny also has an impressive seven RBIs on the season.
The Stars have another busy weekend ahead starting this Friday (Feb. 19), when they’ll play five games in three days, all of them, fortunately, at home.
Teaming up in Illinois
One French player who hasn’t yet had a chance to take the field is Léo Jiminian, who transferred this past year from Clarendon College, in Texas, to East Tennessee State University (ETSU).
In doing so, Jiminian became the first French baseball player to reach the NCAA D1 level, though how he and his new team, the Buccaneers, will fare remains to be seen. Stay tuned, though, because their season begins in just a few days, with a three-game series, beginning Friday (Feb. 19), against Northern Kentucky.
Not far from Kentucky it’s game on already for one of Jiminian’s teammates from last summer’s European Championships. We’re talking about former Oakland A’s prospect José Paula, who had a tough time during two (lost) years at Arizona Western College — COVID killed the 2020 season and a meniscus injury kept him idle last year — but is bouncing back this year in an entirely different program.
Paula, who suited up last summer for the Sénart Templiers in France’s D1 league, is now playing for Frontier Community College in Illinois alongside fellow Frenchman Mael Zan, and both are off to a good start.
In just 4.2 innings of work, Paula, an outfielder and pitcher, already has two wins for the 4-4 Frontier College Bobcats. Zan, in the meantime, has six hits in 18 at bats, with four runs scored and a home run.
The dynamic duo will next take the field for a four-game series starting Friday against UA Rich Mountain.
Taking the mound in Arizona
Frontier College isn’t the only U.S. school to have more than one French player on the same roster. Another is Cochise College, in Arizona, where a pair of French pitchers, Ismail Pontiac and Mathias LaCombe, are both trying to hone their skills in hopes of eventually transferring to a four-year program.
With a four-game sweep of Utah State Eastern, this past weekend, the Cochise College Apaches move to 8-4, and both Pontiac, a sophomore (second-year student), and LaCombe, a freshman (first-year student), are getting opportunities to contribute.
After a rough first outing, Pontiac is now 1-1, with 11 strikeouts in 8.2 innings pitched. LaCombe, who played this past summer for Stade Toulousain, in the D1, is 0-1, but has seven strikeouts and a promising 3.86 ERA. The 19-year-old has also, apparently, been increasing his velocity, and was clocked this past weekend at 94 MPH. Holy smokes!
Days and Knights
Our last update from the across the pond concerns Paolo Brossier, who played alongside Pontiac this past summer for the Montpellier Barracudas.
The speedy outfielder is currently in his second season at Middle Georgia State University, and getting regular playing time on the school’s baseball team, the Knights.
The group is off to a solid start despite a loss on Saturday to Tennessee Wesleyan University, ranked fifth in the NAIA. The Knights are now 5-2-1, and Brossier has played in all eight games. To date he has seven hits on the season (.212) with six runs scored and three stolen bases.
The Knights take the field again on Tuesday (Feb. 15) against Bryan College of Tennessee.
And that, folks, is all she wrote…