OLD ORCHARD BEACH — As the second day of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association baseball tournament continued Tuesday afternoon, Jerry Plante was in the very same seat he owned for three years while Triple-A baseball was played at The Ballpark: Section 5, Row 5, Seat 7.

He had tickets for four seats back then, when the Maine Guides started playing baseball here in 1984. He wasn’t about to miss the rebirth of baseball in this seacoast town.

“What a revival,” said Plante, the OOB town manager from 1975-90. “It really is amazing. You look at this field, it’s in better condition now than it was for that first game (in 1984).

“We had a bad winter that year and a wet spring. This is a tribute to everyone who worked on this field.”

Plante, 75, is still a very visible figure around town. He knows what baseball could mean to an economy that relies heavily on tourist dollars. The Maine Guides, he said, extended the season, bringing people here before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.

He envisions summertime baseball again, at some level.

“I think the second time around, more people will appreciate (baseball),” he said. “I think they realize what it means.”

 

FIFTH-SEEDED PENN State Beaver advanced to the winners’ bracket final today at 4 p.m. against No. 2 Briarcliffe with a 2-1 upset of top-seeded Apprentice School in nine innings.

Greg Frederick scored the winning run on a passed ball with two outs in the ninth. Joe Scherer held Apprentice to eight hits, needing last-out relief help from Frederick, who pitched a no-hitter against Central Maine Community College on Monday night.

Beaver Coach Jack Hilfinger said his players don’t pay any attention to the seeds.

“For the few ballplayers we have, they show great resiliency to go out and win,” he said.

Penn State Beaver is located in Monaca, Pa., about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. This is the first time anyone on the team has been to Maine.

“People here are so polite, cheering for every team,” he said. “They’ve done a tremendous job.”

CENTRAL MAINE CC, located in Auburn, was the first team eliminated, losing to Clark State of Springfield, Ohio, 17-1 in the first game Tuesday.

Clark State scored 13 runs in the sixth inning. Central Maine had only two hits.

“We hadn’t faced adversity all year,” said Coach Charles Bunyea. “And one of my concerns was, if we got down, how would we handle it.

“Overall, our tournament experience was amazing. I’m blown away by how the USCAA pulled it together.

“It stinks that we were 10-run ruled. Coming in, I thought the competition was pretty equal all the way through, but my kids played poorly today. That’s it.”

CMCC Athletic Director Dave Gonyea said the players were still reeling from the no-hitter on Monday.

“People don’t realize how good this baseball is,” said Gonyea. “You have to go to Orono to see pitching like that.”

Still, he said, it is important for his players to compete in tournaments like this.

“We want to play these guys, it makes us better,” he said.

 

SOUTHERN VIRGINIA also was eliminated. After the loss, its players lined up to try the mechanical bull set up between the grandstand and the clubhouse.

 

BASEBALL WASN’T the only thing on display at The Ballpark. Several OOB businesses set up tents to sell their wares – oil paintings, sweets, board games, lobster rolls, pizza, peach salsa – and, said Linda Jenkins, “get people to understand Old Orchard Beach is more than just a summer destination.”

Jenkins, one of the lead volunteers on The Ballpark restoration project, was taking tickets wearing a “Property of Maine Guides Baseball Club” T-shirt.

“We’re thrilled,” she said. “We haven’t stopped crying since the first team came to town.”

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com