The regular season of France’s D1 baseball league has now reached the half-way mark, and after this past weekend’s slate of games, the top teams continue to separate themselves from the pack.
Nowhere was that more apparent than in the Norman city of Rouen, where the defending D1 champion Rouen Huskies steamrolled Paris UC, outscoring the hapless visitors by a combined 30 runs in a pair of games that, due to the mercy rule, only lasted seven and five innings respectively.
In the opener, the Parisians were at least able to score a few runs despite a 10-strikeout performance by Rouen’s starting pitcher, Esteban Prioul. But with a balanced Husky offense firing on all pistons, Paris UC never really had a chance.
The home team collected an impressive 17 hits in the game, including two – both of them home runs – by slugger Bastien Dagneau, who has hit the ground running this year after a stellar performance, in a pre-season tournament in the Canary Islands, for the French national team.
Seven of Rouen’s nine batters had multiple hits in the contest, including shortstop Gabriel Harrison, who went 3-for-4, and Hugo Blondel, who has been a tear of his own and now has 16 hits on the season, tied with teammate Dagneau for the league lead.
The hit parade continued for the Huskies in the afternoon game. They scored 13 runs in just the first three innings, two of them thanks to a second-inning bomb by Dagneau, who collected an incredible 11 RBIs on the day – five in the first game and six in the second. Blondel went 2-for-2 to up his batting average to .485, and Louis Brainville had three hits in the contest.
In the meantime, Rouen’s game-two starter, Quentin Moulin, dominated on the mound, striking out eight and allowing just two hits in five innings. With Rouen up 20-0 at that point, the game was called.
With the win, Moulin moved to 3-1 on the season, and the Huskies, as a team, improved their record to 7-1, tops not only in their division (Group A) but in the entire D1 league. Paris UC, with six losses and no victories, is in dead last place in the group.
Clawing their way to victory
Rouen’s top divisional rivals, for now, are the Montigny Cougars (6-2), who had the week off after playing three straight weekends, including on International Workers’ Day. But the one other team in Group A that stands a fighting chance of reaching the playoffs did take the field Sunday, in their case against the Metz Cometz, who like Paris UC, have yet to win a game.
The team in question is the Savigny Lions, who reached the semi-finals last year but came into the weekend with a record of 3-3 following a pair of heart-breaking losses (both games were decided by just one run) the previous Sunday against Montigny.
Against the Cometz, as expected, the Lions fared better, winning the opener 5-0 despite a solid performance by Metz pitcher Patrick Jordan. The U.S. import allowed just three hits in seven innings while striking out six.
Errors cost his team dearly, however, as did their inability to put any runs on the board despite collecting six hits in the game, four off Savigny’s starting pitcher, Gédéon Coste, and two off Alexis Paredes, who struck out nine – in just four innings!
Savigny won the afternoon game as well, though not, perhaps, by as much as they would like given how explosive their lineup can be at times. Still, they scored seven runs, and Tom Dahan and Ivan Acuña each had three hits in the contest.
Nevertheless, the Cometz refused to go quietly in the night, and actually led the game early on thanks to a big third inning, when they scored three runs on four hits. American recruit Trevor Rogers had two hits in the contest (and four on the day). Markus Melendez, another import player from the United States, also had two hits, as did teenager Alexandre Frulloni.
Savigny stormed back late, however, scoring two runs in the seventh inning and adding another in eighth to win the game by a final score of 7-5. Pitcher Evertz Orozco, who threw six innings in relief after replacing Firmin Hassed, earned the win, his first of the year.
With a record of 5-3, the Lions trail the Huskies and Cougars in Group A but will look to gain ground when they next take the field, on June 12, against Paris UC. The Cometz drop to 0-6 but have a decent shot of finally getting onto the win column the next two weekends, when they play a combined four games against the 0-6 Parisians.
Tigers take two
Down on the sunny Côte d’Azur, Group B had its own “battle of the winless” on Sunday, when Nice Cavigal, 0-6 coming in the weekend, hosted the Toulouse Tigers, who came into the season hoping to turn some heads but instead lost all four of their first games – two against the Sénart Templiers, and two the previous weekend against the Montpellier Barracudas.
Against Nice, though, things finally turned in Toulouse’s favor thanks in large part to strong performances by their two starting pitchers: Jhon Will García and Edilson Batista.
In the opening game, García allowed just six hits and no runs in seven innings. He also recorded nine strikeouts. Helping him on the offensive end was Jossue Mendoza, who hit a home run in the second inning and an RBI-double in the fourth.
Stade Toulousain ended up winning the game 5-0. The won the afternoon game as well, 3-1, with Mendoza again providing the bulk of the offense. On the mound, Batista was in command, allowing just two hits in five innings before being relieved by Euri García.
Back and forth in Sénart
That, then, brings us to the weekend’s fourth a final matchup, and its most consequential. We’re talking about the clash of Group B’s two titans, Sénart and Montpellier, who came into their high-stakes showdown tied for first place with identical 5-1 records.
The rival teams had clearly circled these games on their calendars, and the competition – beginning with a Saturday night contest under the lights at Templiers Stadium in Lieusaint – didn’t disappoint.
That game featured two of the league’s best pitchers, Shane Priest (Sénart) and Kevin Canelón (Montpellier), and as expected, it was a defensive duel. Priest, playing his second season with the Templiers, allowed just one run (unearned) in seven innings. But Canelón was even sharper on the mound, allowing just three hits and zero runs while collecting eight strikeouts.
The Barracudas scored three more runs in the eighth inning off reliever Mathis Meurant, while their own relief pitcher, Mathis Nayral, limited the Templiers to just one hit (and one unearned run) in two innings of work. Final score: 4-1 for Montpellier.
Things took a different turn on Sunday, however, when the teams faced off again. Montpellier pitcher Owen Ozanich struck out six batters, but allowed six runs (four of the earned) due in part to a number of costly defensive errors by his teammates.
His counterpart, Carlos Eusebio, got the better of this matchup, giving up five hits but limiting Montpellier to just three runs in a complete game performance. The Dominican pitcher also had 10 strikeouts in what was his first D1 debut as a starter.
The split result leaves the Templiers and Barracudas again in a tie for first place in the pool, with records of 6-2. Sénart plays next weekend in Nice. Montpellier will also be on the road, but face a far tougher challenge against the 4-2 Boucaniers of La Rochelle.