D1 Baseball: Tigers On Top, Rouen Right Behind, And More…

Toulouse’s Mendoza leads the league with a .519 average

There’s plenty to be determined still as France’s D1 baseball league heads into its seventh week of competition. But there have also been enough games played to get a sense of who’s hot, who’s not, and which teams we should keep an eye on in the months to come.

There have also been some real surprises this season, starting with the Toulouse Tigers, who currently sit atop the Pool A standings with an impressive 8-2 record after beating the La Rochelle Boucaniers twice last Sunday at home.

Stade Toulousain, as they’re also known, haven’t exactly steamrolled the competition. But they’re finding ways to win, and doing so consistently, as evidenced by their double victory (7-6 and 7-4) over a Boucaniers team that made it to the playoffs a season ago.

Nieves of La Rochelle couldn’t contain the Tigers

Leading the charge for the Tigers is veteran Jossue Mendoza, who now leads the league in both average (.519) and hits (14, tied with Yeixon Ruíz of the Sénart Templiers). The Mexican had five hits on the day, including four in the first game.

Mendoza’s production in the opener was all the more impressive given the two pitchers he faced: lefty Yaferson López, who starred last year for the champion Rouen Huskies, and fellow Venezuelan Wilce Nieves, who is back for his third season with the Boucaniers.

Helping the home team’s cause was Alex Perdomo, who joined Toulouse this year after several seasons with Sénart, and had four hits on the day. Nolan Soliveres, who had two hits but also four walks, was a factor as well for the Tigers, who were just 3-13 last year and finished second-to-last in their pool.

Here come the Huskies

Yes, there’s plenty to be excited about in Toulouse. Keep in mind that the Tigers also added seasoned star Ariel Soriano to their lineup, and are looking forward to the imminent return of pitcher Mathias Lacombe, who had a standout season (first team all-conference) for Cochise College in the United States.

Maxime Lefevre had a first-inning HR against Montigny

Still, they’ll have little chance to rest on their laurels given the challenge they await this weekend, when the mighty Huskies come to town.

Currently in second place in the pool with a 7-3 record, the defending D1 champs have struggled a bit more than expected this year, even losing a game last month to Paris UC. But against a solid Montigny Cougars team, Rouen bounced back last weekend with a pair of road victories, and look poised to make a run for yet another championship in what remains of the the 2023 season.

The opener against the Cougars was a nail-biter. Montigny’s starter, Yorfrank López, pitched a complete game, striking out 10 and allowing just two runs. But thanks to a combined effort by Rouen pitchers Werner Leal, who is now 4-0 on the season, and Alexander Mackinnon, two runs were all they needed to eke out a narrow (2-1) victory.

Rouen also held the Cougars to one run in the afternoon game, but this time scored seven on 11 hits, including a pair of home runs – one by Maxime Lefevre, the other by Hugo Blondel – in the first inning. Blondel, who had three hits in the game, now leads the D1 in both HRs (2) and RBIs (12).

Leading the pack

Things have been quite interesting in Pool B as well, where the Montpellier Barracudas, with a record of 7-1, lead the division and boast the league’s best batting average (.317) and combined ERA (1.29).

Oscar Bustamante, a welcome addition to the 7-1 Barracudas

But their numbers are also a bit inflated, arguably, given that six of their seven wins have come against the Nice Cavigal Aigles, who are winless so far this year, and the Metz Cometz, who began the season missing a number of foreign recruits.

The Cometz have since improved, but still got trounced (1-14) last Sunday in their opener against the visiting Barracudas. In the afternoon game, however, Metz gave Montpellier a run for their money, scoring three runs in the second inning to take an early lead and force a pitching change (Canadian Daniel Gosselin came in to replace starter Ben Couvreur).

Fortunately for the Barracudas, Gosselin – who also pitches for the Greek national team – was stellar in relief, striking out eight and allowing just two hits. That then allowed Montpellier’s offense to kick into gear, and with timely hits from Oscar Bustamante (.333), Paolo Brossier (.406) and Dorian Bouniol (.500), the Barracudas tied the game late and then won it in the 10th.

Three-horse race

Montpellier is feeling good right now, and with good reason. But they also know they’ll face stiffer competition in the coming weeks against the Sénart Templiers and Savigny Lions.

For scheduling reasons and due to unforeseen circumstances, the Lions have only played six games this year. But they’ve won five of them, including a 1-0 victory over the Templiers on April 16, when Venezuelan recruit Gilbert Perdomo pitched a no-hitter! He’s now 3-0 on the season.

Ivan Acuña has gotten off to a hot start in 2023

Fellow Venezuelan Ivan Acuña has been sensational as well, with 13 hits in 30 at bats, as has Axel Amoros, who leads his team with a .435 average.

Savigny, D1 finalists last season, have yet to play the Barracudas. But that will change when the teams face off in Montpellier on May 28 and again the following weekend outside of Paris.

The Templiers, in the meantime, are putting together a pretty decent season of their own. They’ve lost just twice – once to Montpellier and once to Savigny – but have eight wins, including two last weekend against Nice. Those contests weren’t even close, as Sénart crushed their winless competitors 10-0, 10-0.

Canadian catcher Jake MacDonald, who had three hits and four RBIs on the day, helped propel the host team, as did Heorhii Hvrytishcvili, who had four hits, and Mizuno Takashi of Japan, who leads the team with a .433 batting average.

The Templiers travel to Metz this coming weekend before taking a break the weekend after.

–Benjamin Witte

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