FRANCE – A season-opening showdown between the six-time French champion Rouen Huskies and the Savigny Lions will headline the French Baseball League Opening Day matchups on Sunday, March 27. The Huskies stopped the Lions in last year’s championship series to capture their seventh national title in the last eight years.
Other Opening Day matchups has the Montpellier Barracudas hosting the Senart Templiers, the Montigny Cougars visiting Stade Toulousain Baseball, and the Pessac Panthèrs on the road against Paris University Club.
SUNDAY, MARCH 27
Savigny Lions at Rouen Huskies
Senart Templiers at Montpellier Barracudas
Montigny Cougars at Stade Toulousain Baseball
Pessac Panthèrs at Paris University Club
Below is a brief outlook of all eight French League teams.
1. ROUEN HUSKIES
The Huskies rebounded from an uncharacteristic third-place finish (17-7) during the regular season a year ago to beat Savigny in four games to claim their sixth consecutive league crown. American imports OF-C David Washington, LHP-INF Jordan Chrystal and RHP Owen Ozanich will join a strong nucleus of standouts that includes Keino Perez (5-4, 2.10 ERA), Kenji Hagiwara (11 SB), Luc Piquet (.280), David Gauthier (.286), Anthony Piquet(3-0, 1.77 ERA), Boris Marche (8 2B, 21 RBIs) and Joris Bert (.337, 27 SB).
2. SAVIGNY LIONS
The Lions seemed poised to win their first title since 2004 after winning last year’s regular season crown with a 20-4 record. However, Rouen foiled Savigny’s championship hopes for the second straight year in the French finals. Top players Christophe Goniot (.410), Pierrick Lemestre (2.67 ERA) and Florian Peyrichou (.388) will be joined by newcomers OF Eric DeBlanc (USA), RHP Clayton Cooper (USA), Enrique Trinidad (Dominican Republic), Diasuke Ikenaga (Japan) and Luis Aponte (Venezuela).
3. MONTPELLIER BARRACUDAS
The surprising Barracudas finished in second-place during the regular season last year with an 18-6 record before going 2-5 in the playoffs. Anthony Cros returns after a one-year stint with the Québec Capitales (Can-Am League) and will be joined by Cuban corner infielder Alejandro Zuaznabar. Thomas Langloys (8-0, 1.83 ERA) and Joris Navarro (56 K’s in 61.1 innings) will anchor the pitching staff.
4. SENART TEMPLIERS
The Templiers suffered through a dismal 2010 campaign finishing 12-12 in the regular season before crashing out of the postseason with a 2-7 card. A pair of Canadians, Kevin Atkinson and Devon Franklin, will join newcomers Frederic Hanvi (Montigny) and Brice Lorienne (Clermont-Ferrand) to bolster the revamped roster of first-year manager Jamel Boutagra. Top hitter Ernesto Martinez batted .390 last year while Julien Brelle Andrade scored 31 runs and reliever Matthieu Brelle Andrade posted a 2.44 ERA. However, the fortunes of the Templiers may rest on the surgically-repaired hand of staff ace Samuel Meurant (4-4, 1.98 ERA).
5. STADE TOULOUSAIN BASEBALL
STB Toulouse finished in fifth-place last year with a 9-15 record and has a wealth of young prospects which bodes well for the future. 22-year-old righty Euri Garcia Martinez (5-1, 3.84 ERA) will be joined by 17-year-old Cuban starter Leonel Cespedes (6.88 ERA) and 20-year-old reliever Thomas Dourlens (32 strikeouts). Highly-touted teenage backstop Andy Paz (Oakland A’s signee) and 17-year-old southpaw David Van Heyningen (Saint-Martin) are the promising newcomers.
6. PARIS UNIVERSITY CLUB
New skipper Jeff Stoeckel will be calling the shots for a retooled PUC squad this season. American right-hander Will Musson was signed to upgrade a porous pitching unit. Former All-European hurler Nicolas Dubaut (.372) led the team with 16 RBIs a year ago while fanning 38 hitters in 39-plus frames. Talented slugger Douglas Rodriguez (.366) is another key piece of the offensive attack for the Paris club.
7. PESSAC PANTHERS
The promoted Panthers captured the second division crown last year and should matchup well with the bottom half of the league teams. Former STB Toulouse standout Maxime Charlot (.304) and Sebastien Boyer (Savigny) should provide a spark at the plate, while veteran hurlers Patrice Briones and Guillaume Gisbert will lead the pitching staff.
8. MONTIGNY COUGARS
The Cougars went 5-19 last year but ended the regular season with a two-game winning streak. Noel Ehrt led the team at the plate with a .328 batting mark. Sebastien Duchossoy paced Montigny with 18 RBIs while Arnaud Fau clubbed a pair of home runs. But a youth movement without any foreign mercenaries does not bode well for the 2011 Cougars.
RECENT FRENCH LEAGUE CHAMPIONS
2010 – Rouen Huskies
2009 – Rouen Huskies
2008 – Rouen Huskies
2007 – Rouen Huskies
2006 – Rouen Huskies
2005 – Rouen Huskies
2004 – Savigny Lions
2003 – Rouen Huskies
2002 – Savigny Lions
2001 – Savigny Lions
2000 – Paris Université Club
Marvin Moore is a freelancer writer at i-BaseballContent.com