Week 1 Roundup On France’s D1 Baseball League

Montpellier is off to a hot start to the season

MONTPELLIER – D1 baseball is back! And with games held last weekend in four sites around France, the 2023 season began with a bang, with several blowouts, a handful of deep bombs (!) and even a bit of a brawl, in La Rochelle, where jawing between members of the Boucaniers and visiting Toulouse Tigers escalated into a nasty dust-up.

The weekend also marked the D1 debut of several new recruits, including Oscar Bustamante of the Montpellier Barracudas, who smashed the first pitch of the first game down the left-field line for his first hit in France.

All systems go

Playing against the Metz Cometz, the American import (of Venezuelan descent) ended up with four hits on the day to help the home team win both games in their Opening Day double-header.

Bustamante had a stellar D1 debut

The opener proved to a be a blowout (13-1). Montpellier had their way against the Cometz’ starting pitcher, Elian Aubry, who gave up 11 hits and 9 runs in just three innings of work. Three of those hits were courtesy of Yoan Antonac, a former Philadelphia Phillies prospect who’s better known for his pitching prowess but is helping the Barracudas this season as a designated hitter.

Montpellier took the second game too thanks in part to a stellar pitching performance by teenager Ben Couvreur (also making his D1 debut) and despite having to face Shane Priest, an American import who’s playing his third season in France but first for Metz, after transferring from the Sénart Templiers.

Priest is taking the mound for Metz this season

Couvreur, who is just 15, struck out the first four batters he faced, didn’t allow a single hit, and ended up with 10 strikeouts in four innings pitched. The guy who replaced him, newcomer Daniel Gosselin of Canada, had a pretty fantastic outing in his own right, striking out eight Metz batters in five innings.

Japan to the rescue

Further east along the Mediterranean coast, in Nice, Priest’s former team, the Templiers, took two closer-than-expected games against Nice Cavigal to sit even with Montpellier atop the Pool B standings.

In the opener, Sénart leaned heavily on a pair of Japanese recruits: pitcher Koki Takahashi and centerfielder Takashi Mizuno. The former allowed just two hits and one run in five innings pitched, while the latter collected two hits, including a ninth inning home run. Boom!

Mizuno also had a hit in the second game, which the Templiers won (7-5) thanks to some timely offense as well by Andrew Jones, former Savigny infielder Yeixon Ruíz, and Ukrainian recruit Heorhii Hvrytishvli.

A split in Rouen

There were also two matchups between teams in Pool A, including the defending champion Rouen Huskies, who hosted a Sunday double-header against a promising Montigny Cougars team.

Bellen Fagnoni is off to a hot start

In this fight between cats and dogs, the Cougars drew first blood thanks to a sensational pitching performance by Yorfrank López, who gave up just two hits in a complete game shutout. Montigny ended up winning the opener 6-0, helped also by a three-hit performance from their big Brazilian batter Allan Bellen Fagnoni, who is playing his second season with the team.

The champs got their revenge in the afternoon game, however. What had been a close game turned into a blowout when the Huskies scored six runs in the sixth inning and three more in the seventh. Slugger Hugo Blondel had two hits in the game, including a 3-RBI homer, and second-year Venezuelan recruit Javier Hernández went an incredible 4-for-4 at the plate.

Final score, 13-1 for Rouen.

Bad blood

Last but not least in our roundup of the Opening Day matchups was a double-header in La Rochelle, where the hometown Boucaniers – after a fantastic 2022 season – were hoping to pick up where they left off last year.

Perdomo and the Tigers took two in La Rochelle

Instead, it was the new-look Tigers of Toulouse who came away victorious, winning the opener by a narrow 3-2 score but busting out in the second game – with a nine-run barrage in the sixth – to finish La Rochelle off 12-1.

Jossue Mendoza homered in that game and had 4 RBIs. The visitors also got a boost from Alex Perdomo, formerly of the Sénart Templiers, who had four hits on the day.

The Boucaniers were without the services, unfortunately, of their best pitcher, Venezuelan import Wilce Nieves, who was suspended due to an in-game altercation late last year.

Now, both teams could be looking at new suspensions over another dust-up, this one provoked, according to sources, by some disparaging remarks about a certain star shortstop’s country of origin.

For all of the league’s results and stats, click on this FFBS link.

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