Without the two top teams ROUEN and SENART, the French Elite League opens its gates for the 2009 season this weekend. The HUSKIES and the TEMPLIERS travel to Italy instead to participate in the European Cups in Nettuno and Matino next week. The COUGARS MONTIGNY are the lone new team in the championship, replacing PARIS UC as one of the elite eight. The SAVIGNY LIONS and the MONTPELLIER BARRACUDAS are favored besides ROUEN and SENART at the start of the new season.
Similar to 2008 the eight teams will play a round robin during the regular season with doubleheaders on 14 game days. Afterwards, the first four clubs advance into the playoff round, where they will play another round robin, through with three games each weekend and a clean slate at the beginning of the phase. The first two clubs qualify for the best-of-five championship at the beginning of October.
First Game Day March 28/29
|Dates and Times are subject to change! In case of doubt check with the responsible national federation!|
|Sunday, March 29 2009|
|11:00||Stade Toulousain Baseball||La Guerche Hawks||Stade Toulousai...|
|11:00||Montpellier Barracudas||Lions Savigny sur Orge||Montpellier Bar...|
|11:00||Cougars de Montigny||Clermont-Ferrand Arvernes||Cougars Stadium|
Final Standings 2008
|3||Lions Savigny sur Orge||19||9||189||157||.678||5||W1|
|5||Stade Toulousain Baseball||10||18||161||205||.357||14||L9|
|6||La Guerche Hawks||10||18||136||209||.357||14||L3|
|8||Paris Université Club||4||24||82||257||.142||20||L4|
French Champions since 2000
2000 Paris UC
2001 Savigny Lions
2002 Savigny Lions
2003 Huskies Rouen
2004 Savigny Lions
2005 Huskies Rouen
2006 Huskies Rouen
2007 Huskies Rouen
2008 Huskies Rouen
The HUSKIES struggled a little bit, going out of the gates last year, but dominated down the decisive phase of the championship to celebrate their four straight title and fifth overall. It is difficult to motivate a team, which has won the championship four years in a row, so the European Cup will be in their focus early on. Infielder Randy Perez, and pitchers Laurent Aoutin, Jason Kosow and Jean Baptiste Couton left the club.
Comebacker Robin Roy and TJ Stanton are supposed to help staff ace Keino Perez, Nicolas Dubaut and Alexandre Sochon especially during the European Cup in Italy. Afterwards new manager Francois Colombier has the tough task to find enough time on the field for all of his players on the deepest roster in France. Offensive forces Kenji Hagiwara, Dany Scalabrini and Boris Marche will be back as well. Alike the last few years, the HUSKIES will be the main favorite to win the French championship.
SENART had quite a run during the regular season last year, winning 24 of the first 28 games and the title in Challenge de France. However in the end, ROUEN passed the TEMPLIERS and captured the French title for a fifth time. Relying only on the three pitchers Samuel Meurant, Evan Blesoff and Mathieu Brelle-Andrade all year long, might led to the second place finish in the end. Despite earlier indications Blesoff will stay with the club to lead the pitching staff with Meurant and Brelle-Andrade on his side.
However manager Didier Seminet, Gaspard Fessy (after the European Cup), Sylvain Hervieux, Anthony Meurant, Benjamin Deruelle, Sebastien Herve, Lahence Benhamida and Jean-Baptiste Breton left the team. The Cuban Ernesto Martinez will lead the offense together with the British National Team players Ian Young and Alex Malihoudis. Additionally the second team of SENART will be a source for player/coach Brelle-Andrade in the weekly challenge to fill the lineup. With the big amount of departures it is more than likely that they will lose a few more games this year, though most of their key players remained with the club.
The LIONS finished in third place last year, winning 25 of 40 games. They once again will go into the Elite League season as the team right behind ROUEN and SENART. The Californians Alex Pickett and Steven Huff, both infielders and pitchers, reinforce the roster this year. Nolan Rouse, Nicolas Launay and Sebastien Grimaud left the club. Christophe Goniot and the prospects Amin Touarhi and Christophe Morel fill the open spots. Carlos Jiminian continues to lead the pitching. He will take the major work load on the mound together with one of the two American newcomers.
The BARRACUDAS were a main stay in the French playoffs the past few seasons, but couldn’t beat ROUEN, SENART or SAVIGNY to go all the way. They finished in fourth place with a 16-24 record. With new head coach Jean-Michel Mayeur they want more in 2009. They brought in Dennis Kelly to bolster the offense. He played for KARLSKOGA last season and dominated the Swedish Elitserien. Also new is Matthew Blackmore, who comes from the Nationale 1 club BOIS-GUILLAUME. The brothers Gregory and Anthony Cros could help down the stretch, after finishing the season in the United States in May. Edouard Masse and Thomas Meley shouldered most of the starts last season at the top of a deep pitching staff. They were already in mid-season form during a warm-up tournament in St. Priest, allowing just two runs in four games.
After two difficult years with no playoff appearances STADE TOULOUSAIN wants to get back into the post season. In 2008 they finished in fifth place with 18 victories in 40 games. The brothers Euri and Edisson Garcia-Martinez lead the pitching staff, which lost Quentin Pourcel this winter. Former FC BARCELONA outfielder Gaspard Fessy will join the team following the European Cups next week, where he is supposed to help the TEMPLIERS SENART. His presence should help the offense besides player/coach Jamal Boutagra. Minnesota Twins prospect Frederic Hanvi might be on the roster, but he will continue his professional career in Florida. STADE has a pretty young team, which simply got a year older, and hopefully also better.
La Guerche Hawks
The HAWKS had a pretty decent season for such a small club last year, taking sixth place in the final standings with a 17-23 record. Head coach Mathieu Beauchamp had to leave LA GUERCHE after just one year. Kyle Gruver, who also will start besides pitching ace Anthony Piquet, succeeds him as head coach. Sebastien Vezina and Jonathan Weaver are also new on the roster. They originally had planned to bring in Frederick Ouellette, but the pitcher had to leave France in mid-March due to personal reason and was replaced by Gruver. If they are able to find a second strong starter besides Piquet, the HAWKS could be good enough for a few surprises. The first game day against last year’s fifth-ranked team STADE TOULOUSAIN could be an early indicator for the rest of the season.
Arvernes de Clermont-Ferrand
CLERMONT-FERRAND moved into the Elite League at the beginning of last year as the promoted club and established them already right in the middle of the pack, fighting for the fourth spot in the standings. They lost a bit steam towards the end of the season and finished with a 15-25 record in seventh place. Daniel Hayes and Richard Resenberger replace Brett Murray and Doug Grant as foreign leaders on the roster. Dale Brewers, who played for the Czech club in Olomouc in 2008, also was expected to join, but isn’t listed on the roster anymore. Additionally four players from ST. PRIEST add some depth: Remi Pellet, Bruno Gaillard, Aurelien Dalibard and Jean-Christophe Joly. Resenberger and Hayes have a tough job to replace the production from the two Canadians and are going to need help from the other players, especially in the pitching department, if they want to get into the hunt for a spot in the playoffs.
Cougars de Montigny
The COUGARS won the championship in the Nationale 1 league (2nd division in France) last fall and received the promotion to the Elite League. The club with the beautiful ballpark brings in Derek Malikian (USA), Jason Holowaty (GRB) and Nicolas Launay to strengthen the offense, and Jean-Baptiste Couton to reinforce the bullpen. Malikian comes from the German Baseball-Bundesliga club SOLINGEN ALLIGATORS, Holowaty from the British champion LONDON METS. Nicolas and Guillaume Bilweiss and Justin Schlegel will join them later this year (April/May). All other members of the 2008 roster are expected to be back. Sebastien Duchossoy, Samuel Karson and Olivier Berrebi will support Guillaume Bilweiss and Couton on the pitching staff. MONTIGNY may have the potential to surprise a few teams in 2009, though the main goal will be avoiding relegation.