D1 Baseball (Week 5): The Barracudas Bust Out, A Cat Fight In Montigny, And More…

Montpellier recruits Kenjiro Sugiura (foreground) and Steve Anderson (Credit: Le Baseblog)

MONTPELLIER – On a day that marked the Allied victory, 77 years ago, in World War II, the Montpellier Barracudas celebrated two big victories of their own at Greg Hamilton Baseball Park, in the outskirts of the southern city.

Urged on by the club’s energetic announcer, supporters had plenty of reasons to cheer Sunday as the Barracudas did more than just dispatch their opponent, Stade Toulousain (STB). They also showed signs of finally breaking out, of living up to their promise, in other words, as one the D1 league’s top 2022 contenders.

Toulouse has gotten off to a difficult start in 2022 (Credit: Le Baseblog)

On both offense and on the mound, Montpellier absolutely dominated the Toulouse Tigers, who began the season with aspirations of their own but now find themselves winless (0-4). Adding to STB’s woes is the recent and unexpected departure of their two young Spanish recruits: Kevin Tejada and Jostin Castillo.

With those notable absences, the team’s lineup looked downright anemic on Sunday, and Montpellier’s pitching corps of Kevin Canelón, Mathis Nayral, Owen Ozanich and newcomer Kenjiro Sugiura took full advantage.

In the opener, Canelón pitched six scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out 13 to collect his third win of the season. In the afternoon game, Ozanich, making his first start of the season, was on cruise control as well, allowing just three hits and striking out eight.

Montpellier hurler Owen Ozanich collected 8 Ks and a W (Credit: Le Baseblog)

The Montpellier relievers – Nayral in the first game and Japanese two-way sensation Sugiura in the second – were effective in their own right, pitching five innings of no-hit, no-run baseball between them.

The team will no doubt face tougher competition in the weeks to come, but Sunday’s performance is definitely a momentum boost, especially with how well the Barracudas also fared at the plate.

The Toulouse starters – Jhon Will García and Edilson Batista, a former Boston Red Sox prospect from Brazil – aren’t the easiest pitchers to handle. And yet, in both contests, Montpellier scored early and often, collecting 20 hits overall to post eight runs in the opener and 10 more in the afternoon game, which ended in an eighth-inning, mercy-rule walkoff.

Former Red Sox prospect Edilson Batista of Brazil (Credit: Le Baseblog)

Yudi Soriano, brother of teammate Ariel Soriano, had his best day of the season so far, going 3-for-7 with three RBIs. It was a breakout day too for fellow newcomer Steve Anderson of the United States. The slugger went 3-for-9 with four runs scored. And Sugiura, appearing for the first time in the Montpellier lineup, had two hits, including an eighth-inning triple in the afternoon game.

Three-team race

With the wins, Montpellier moves to 5-1, and thanks to how things played out meanwhile in La Rochelle, now finds itself tied for first place in Group B with the Sénart Templiers.

Undefeated (4-0) going into the weekend, the Templiers faced a tough test on the road Sunday against the La Rochelle Boucaniers, who were riding a three-game winning streak. And in the both games, the home team showed again why they are in serious contention this year for one of Group B’s two available playoff spots.

Sénart manager Orestes Kindelan of Cuba (LBB file photo)

Sénart’s starting pitcher in the opener was one of the league’s best, Shane Priest, a U.S. recruit who is now in his second stint with the team. Facing him, though, was another standout pitcher, former Chicago White Sox prospect Wilce Nieves, and over the course of seven innings, to two aces had a proper duel.

Priest allowed nine hits but limited the Boucaniers to a single run. Nieves gave up six hits, but allowed two runs – both in the seventh inning – to put the Templiers ahead, barely.

From there the game became a battle of the bullpens, and thanks to pair of dominant innings by Sénart pitcher Carlos Eusebio, who limited La Rochelle to just a single hit, the Templiers ended up winning by a final score of 3-1.

The Boucaniers are fighting for a spot in the playoffs (LBB file photo)

The Boucaniers were quick, nevertheless, to bounce back, and in the afternoon game jumped all over Sénart’s starting pitcher, Alexandre Lods, who lasted just three innings after giving up eight hits and five runs.

Forrest Crawford, Jorge Suazo, Ramiro Milar and Maxence Esteban all had multiple hits in the game, while on the pitching front, Anthony Torres and Nicolas Antoine joined forces to limit the Templiers to just two runs. Final score: 10-2 for the Boucaniers.

With the split, La Rochelle is now 4-2 on the season, just one game behind both the Templiers and Barracudas, who face each other next weekend in Sénart. The Boucaniers will have the week off before hosting Montpellier on Sunday, May 22.

Down to the wire

While the Boucaniers and Templiers traded blows in La Rochelle, another uber-tight game was being played out in Montigny-le-Bretonneux, where the Cougars, 5-1 coming into the weekend, welcomed the Savigny Lions (2-2), the team that squeezed past them last season for Group A’s second playoff spot.

López has been outstanding so far this year (LBB file photo)

With its loaded lineup and prime-time pitching, Montigny has been rolling this season. But in the opener, it was the Lions who clawed their way to a victory – by the narrowest of margins.

In that game, Cougars starter Yorfrank López continued to shine. One week after pitching a complete-game, one-hit shutout over the Metz Cometz, he threw another nine innings, this time striking out nine and allowing just a single run.

But Savingy, it turns out, has a serious weapon of its own in the person of newcomer Alexis Paredes, a former Cleveland Indians prospect from the Dominican Republic. Paredes threw his own complete game – a shutout in his case – to give his new team a 1-0 victory.

After a lunch break, the Cougars and Lions went at it again, and again the margin of victory was razor thin. Firmin Hassed and Evertz Orozco pitched four innings a piece for Savingy, allowing four runs between them while striking out five.

Unfortunately for them, Montigny’s starting pitcher, Robinson Maestre, was just a little bit better, limiting the Lions to four hits and three runs in eight innings of work. The Cougars won the contest 4-3.

Maestre is now 3-1 and leads the D1 in strikeouts with 37. His teammate, Yorfrank López, is second on the list with 34, following by Canelón (29) and Priest (28).

Rouen riding high

With another half of the regular season yet to play, Montigny (6-2) and Savigny (3-3) are in the hunt still for Group A’s two playoff spots. But as things stand now, they’re both trailing the defending D1 champion Rouen Huskies, who had no trouble on Sunday handling the winless Metz Cometz.

The Huskies have a battle-tested core of French players, a handful of new recruits – including pitcher Yaeferson Gómez – and a standard of excellence that has proven its worth year after year.

Hugo Blondel had eight hits on the day! (LBB file photo)

No surprise, then, that they were able to knock the Cometz out of orbit, scoring 11 runs in the opener and 13 more in the afternoon game. Sluggers Bastien ‘Balou’ Dagneau and Hugo Blondel caused particular damage at the plate. The pair combined for seven hits in the first game and seven more in the afternoon game.

Pitcher Quentin Moulin (2-1) had a fantastic game for Rouen, allowing just two hits in the opener while striking out 11. And in the second game, Gomez held the Cometz to three runs in five innings before being relieved by Esteban Prioul and Felix Carvallo.

Raimiel Rodríguez and his teammates on the Cometz (LBB file photo)

With the two wins (11-1, 13-4), the Huskies move to 5-1 on the season with a strong possibility of extending their record to 7-1 after next week, when they play winless Paris UC.

The Cometz, who didn’t play their season opener until the weekend before, are now 0-4. Next up for Metz is a showdown, next Sunday, with the Savigny Lions.

–Benjamin Witte

For the full D1 schedule, results and stats, click here (FFBS)

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