D1 Baseball: Let The Games Begin

French baseball is back! (Credit: Bertrand Hauger)

For the first time since 2019, France’s top-level baseball league, the D1, will begin as originally scheduled, with the season opener taking place Saturday evening in Sénart, followed by games Sunday, April 10, in several locations.

The wait, in other words, is finally over. But first, a few reminders about how it all works:

And then there were 10…

Three years ago, French baseball’s governing body, the FFBS, decided to expand the D1 from eight to 12 teams. Since then, two teams have been relegated from the competition: the Valenciennes Vipers, following the 2019 season, and the Clermont-Ferrand Arvernes, who finished last place the 2021 standings (with a 5-15 record in the regular season).

For this year, the league will thus proceed with 10 teams. The lowest ranked, based on their 2021 performance, is Nice Cavigal. The Rouen Huskies, winners of sixth straight D1 championships, are the top team.

Here is last season’s final classification:

Credit: FFBS

Groupings and realignment

Like in 2021, the league’s participating teams will be divided into two pools – Group A and Group B – albeit with a few tweaks regarding who plays where.

Stade Toulousain, presumably for geographic reasons, has been moved from Group A to Group B, which features mostly teams in the southern half of the country. The Cometz of Metz, in northeastern France, are switching groups in the opposite direction.

Here is a breakdown of the pools, complete with each team’s 2021 regular-season record:

Group A

Rouen Huskies (12-4)
Savigny Lions (10-6)
Montigny Cougars (9-7)
Metz Cometz (7-13)
Paris UC (3-13)

Group B

Sénart Templiers (18-2)
Montpellier Barracudas (17-3)
La Rochelle Boucaniers (8-12)
Stade Toulousain (6-10)
Nice Cavigal (5-15)

The schedule

The regular phase of the season will feature 10 rounds of weekend games, beginning Saturday and ending the weekend of July 23/24. Teams will compete only within their pool, and on each occasion, the opposing squads will play twice, mostly in Sunday double-headers.

Not all teams will be play every weekend, however. Given that there are five per group, one team in each pool will have to sit out while the other four compete. Each team, therefore, will play 16 games over the course of the 10-week regular season.

The Huskies have won six straight D1 titles (Credit: Le Baseblog)

From there, the two teams with the best record in each group will advance to the league playoffs, beginning July 31. The top finisher in each pool will face the second-place finisher in the opposite group in a best-of-five semi-final series.

The winners then go to the D1 finals, which begin Aug. 18 and will also be a best-of-five series. Click here for the full schedule from the FFBS.

Opening Day!

As mentioned above, the new season begins this weekend, with matchups taking place in four cities. Yeah baby!

Here’s what’s on the agenda:

Sénart-Nice

It’s at Templiers Stadium, south of Paris, where the very first game – between the Sénart Templiers and Nice Cavigal – will take place.

Start-time is 7:30 p.m. Saturday night. And yes, fans will be able to follow the action on streaming. The two squads will compete again on Sunday, starting at 11 a.m.

Credit: Sénart Templiers

The Templiers, finalists the past two seasons, are the clear favorites in this matchup. They’re also among the favorites to win the league title, especially with the arrival of a decorated new skipper, Cuban baseball legend Orestes Kindelan.

Nice shouldn’t be overlooked, though. Led by Jonathan Montas, last year’s D1 batting champion (.478), the team will no doubt be fired up and looking for an upset.

Metz-Paris

[Update: This matchup has been postponed due to weather and field conditions]

The Cometz muscled up this offseason with a bevy of foreign recruits, and will be looking to start things on the right foot at home against Paris UC. The two teams play a pair on Sunday, starting at 11 a.m.

Credit: Metz Cometz

It’ll be interesting in particular to see how Metz fares on the pitching end, given that they recruited not one but two foreign starters: Patrick Jordan, who previously played for Westfield State, in Massachusetts, and Sam Granoff, who pitched at both the University of San Francisco and Duke.

Rouen-Montigny

The reigning D1 champions also kick things off at home, in their case against the Montigny Cougars, who enjoyed a late-season surge in 2021 but just missed out on reaching the playoffs.

The games, which start at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., will be streamed live.

Credit: Rouen Huskies

The Huskies may well be the team to beat this year. They have a fantastic core of French-grown talent, and have three new foreign recruits with professional experience in the U.S. minor leagues.

But the Cougars should be solid as well, and with their own crop of foreign recruits, including Agustín Tissera of Argentina and Allan Bellen-Fagnoni of Brazil, will be looking to pick up where they left off last year, when they won seven of their last eight regular season games.

Montpellier-La Rochelle

Winners of the 2021 Challenge de France tournament, the Barracudas are definitely in the hunt this year for a D1 title. They’re still missing a few of their starters, however, and may have their hands full with a La Rochelle team that’s hungry to improve.

Credit: Montpellier Barracudas

Montpellier’s Ariel Soriano is always fun to watch, and to make things more interesting, he’ll be playing this season alongside his older brother, Yudi. The Barracudas also added a big bat from the United States: former Georgetown University slugger Steve Anderson.

But the Boucaniers have been busy on the recruiting end as well, with newcomers from across Latin America, including Venezuela, Brazil and Cuba.

Le Baseblog‘s media partner, Baseball TV France, will be streaming the games live. To follow, download their free application, available in the App Store or Google Play.

Play ball!

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