GELLAINVILLE – At some point the Rouen Huskies are going to need a bigger clubhouse – just to house all of the hardware they keep collecting!
Over the past two decades, the club has built a dynasty for the ages in D1 baseball, winning six straight league titles and 16 of the last 18 going back to 2003.
They’ve had their fair share of the success in the mid-season Challenge de France tournament as well, and on Sunday, in the championship game of this year’s edition, they came through once again, trouncing the Savigny Lions to win the event for a record 10th time.
What’s the secret to their success? The answer is no doubt multifold. They’ve had excellent coaching over the years, yes. And some standout foreign recruits. But they’ve also had a knack for developing – and retaining – home-grown French talent, and that more than anything, has been the difference maker.
Sunday was no exception, as the Huskies – their pitching staff depleted by three previous days of intense competion – chose to put their faith in a relatively untested arm by the name of Thibault Mercadier.
Fresh off his first year in a community college in far-flung Nebraska, USA, the 19-year-old rose to the challenge (and then some) in what was no doubt the biggest French baseball game of his career.
He gave up a run (unearned) in the first inning in what looked like a promising start for the Lions, who were hoping to take advantage of Mercadier’s inexperience in the D1 to give the Huskies a real run for their money. But from there the young pitcher settled into an impresive groove, allowing just two hits and striking out seven in five innings of work.
By then, Rouen was up 6-1 thanks to a big fourth inning that including a towering, two-RBI double by Bastien Dagneau, who had two hits in the game. That, it turned out, was all the offense they’d really need, as Rouen’s relievers, Will Moscato and Esteban Prioul held Savigny to just one additional run in what remained of the game.
For good measure, the Huskies ran up the score by another five runs in the ninth to win by a final score of 11-2, but truth be told, the outcome seemed decided long before that.
Rouen’s Louis Brainville had has many hits in the game (four) as the entire Lions lineup put together. Maxime Lefève and Hugo Blondel had two hits each, and Joseph Toubeaux, Mercadier’s teammate at Western Nebraska College, got in on the action with a hit of his own.
This is not the last time the Huskies and Lions will meet this year. Rivals in the same division (Group A), the team will face off again on June 19 as part of the D1 regular season.
As things stand now, Rouen leads the pool with a record of 8-2. Savigny (5-3) is currently in third place, behind the Montigny Cougars (7-3), but will look to make up ground on the weekend of June 11/12, when they play the winless Paris UC.
For all the results and statistics from this year’s Challenge de France, click here.