After three years, IronPigs are winners

Opening Day victory puts Lehigh Valley over .500 for first time

Rich Thompson has spent 316 games in an IronPigs' uniform. (Danny Wild/

By Andrew Pentis / Special to | April 7, 2011 7:47 PM ET

Yes, it's just one game. And, yes, baseball players are famous for taking their games one at a time. But the Lehigh Valley IronPigs' 7-2 win over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees on Thursday was a significant one.

The victory gave the IronPigs the first winning record since their 2008 inception, even if it is just 1-0. The club also became the Phillies' first Triple-A affiliate in a dozen years to grab a victory in its season opener.

"I'm one of the guys that has been here, so I know how these opening games usually go," said center fielder Rich Thompson, who's played for the IronPigs for parts of four seasons and represents the lone holdover from the 2010 starting lineup. "For the other guys, it was a normal Opening Day."

It seems, too, that change -- a whole lot of it -- is what has Lehigh Valley aiming for an entire season of more wins than defeats. For one, new skipper Ryne Sandberg is used to winning -- he guided three different affiliates to .500-plus records during four years in the Cubs organization.

Thompson said his new manager hasn't gone out of his way to prod players about the team's not-so-rosy recent history.

"He's new, too," Thompson said. "He's just been very positive."

One element that won't hurt the IronPigs is Major League experience. Eighty-four percent of their Opening Day roster -- and 100 percent of Sandberg's starting lineup -- has played in "The Show."

Jeff Larish hit a two-run blast, Delwyn Young slugged a solo homer and Ronnie Belliard went 2-for-4 on his 36th birthday. Lehigh Valley also got a stellar effort from Vance Worley (1-0), who compiled a 30-inning scoreless streak across three levels last season. The Triple-A All-Star tossed six shutout frames while striking out nine.

"We did so many things well," Thompson said. "If we can do that going forward, we should have a very good year."

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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