June 26, 2011

Steve Solloway: A trip to Omaha, 25 years ago

It was the last of its kind, a Maine team playing in the College World Series

(Continued from page 1)

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Rick Bernardo was an All-America first baseman for Maine, hitting 19 home runs while batting .428 with an .821 slugging percentage as a senior in 1986.

Photos courtesy of UMaine

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Scott Morse was Maine’s starting pitcher in its 1986 World Series opener against Arizona. The Black Bears opened a 7-0 lead before Arizona completed a comeback in the ninth inning to win, 8-7.

Additional Photos Below

RECORDS STILL STAND FROM 1986

TEAM SEASON RECORDS

Road wins (28), runs (528), batting average (.337), hits (729), total bases (1,117)

TEAM GAME RECORDS

Home runs (7), total bases (47)

INDIVIDUAL HITTING RECORDS

SEASON

Rick Bernardo: Slugging pct. (.821), extra base hits (39)

Gary LaPierre: At-bats (265)

GAME

Bill Reynolds: Home runs (4), RBI (9), total bases (16)

INDIVIDUAL PITCHING RECORDS

SEASON

Scott Morse: Wins, 15 (shares record)

GAME

Jeff Plympton: Strikeouts, 17

"It was surreal as a 20-year-old," said Etzweiler, who grew up in Allentown, Pa. "You had people of all ages asking for your autograph. We walked into a cathedral-like facility and felt at home. We had a chance to do something. It was exciting and I felt blessed."

"Maine was always kind of like the Cinderella team to the people in Omaha," said Loubier. "They got behind us."

Dube returned to Biddeford with a College World Series T-shirt. He wore it for 10 years or so under his uniform while playing in the Twilight League.

"It's all ratty now. The bigger the game, I had to wear it," he said.

Twenty-five years is a long time. Mark Rogers, the pitcher from Mt. Ararat now in the Milwaukee Brewers' farm system, was 5 months old when Loubier took the mound against LSU.

Ryan Flaherty, the Deering High star and minor league all-star in the Chicago Cubs' organization, was born a month or so after Reynolds had his four-home run day. What happened in 1986 becomes more distant with each passing year.

"When Maine hockey was at its peak, we were bigger than that," Dube said. "I was the kid from Biddeford, someone else was from Sanford or South Portland or Hampden. We were Maine kids."

Members of the 1986 team know times are different, although this year Nick Bernardo, son of Rick, played for Maine as a freshman, giving the Black Bears a link to the past.

The NCAA changed the tournament format in 1987 and it became more difficult for a New England team to make the World Series. Eventually, the high school talent that once waited for Winkin to beckon listened to recruiting pitches from other schools, particularly those from the warm-weather South. Several schools in the Northeast have dropped baseball.

Over the years, the men who played for Winkin have come together for reunions organized by former players like Mike Coutts. Many returned to Orono two years ago for a dinner honoring Winkin.

The 1986 team hasn't been singled out for its 25th anniversary, which has led more to nostalgia than griping.

"It's celebrated amongst ourselves when we talk to each other, when we do see each other," said Etzweiler. "I'm not bothered.

"Gosh, that year was the highlights and the lowlights of my career. It was an exciting, exciting time."

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveSolloway

 

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Additional Photos

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Catcher Bill Reynolds was one of several instate players on the UMaine team that went to the College World Series in 1986. Reynolds played at Edward Little High in Auburn.

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Back in 1986, a team from the University of Maine with a roster heavy with players from the state created memories at the College World Series. Back row, left to right: Coach John Winkin, Bob Whalen, Dan Etzweiler, Bill Reynolds, Scott Morse, Jim Overstreet, Dale Plummer, Jim Childs, Mike Ballou, Rob Roy; middle row: Jim McMichael, Mike LeBlanc, Rob Wilkins, Mike Bordick, Rick Bernardo, Jeff Plympton, Steve Loubier, Derek Aramburu, George Goldman, Colin Ryan; front row: Dan Kane, Jay Kemble, Marc Powers, Dave Gonyar, Gary La Pierre, Mike Dutil, Gary Dube, Don Hutchinson.

 


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