ALLENTOWN - Lehigh Valley IronPigs manager Ryne Sandberg said a better script couldn't have been written for his team's International League opener against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Yankees before 9,225 excited fans at Coca-Cola Park.
The 'Pigs jumped right on the Yankees from the get-go and rolled to a 7-2 win, putting them in first place and over .500 for the first time in the club's history.
It was also the first time that a Phillies' Triple A affiliate had an opening day win since 1999 when they were the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Red Barons. Randy Wolf was on the mound that night and pitched seven shutout innings en route to a 7-0 win over the Pawtucket Red Sox.
The new-look IronPigs might not have been around for all of the first three seasons, but Sandberg said he made sure they knew how important a win and a 1-0 start would be.
"I was well aware of it and I made sure the players were aware of it," said Sandberg. "You couldn't ask for a better opening day and it doesn't always work that way. It meant more than just an Opening Day win because of the history here."
Now the monkey is definitely off of the franchise's back.
You could just sense it when the starting lineups were introduced and Sandberg got a standing ovation. The Hall of Famer also signed autographs for fans down the third base line for at least 15 minutes prior to that.
And it wasn't just a one or two run win that the Pigs escaped with. It was a convincing win to say the least.
It all started with a masterful first inning by Vance Worley, who also started the opener last year for the Reading Phils. Worley, the youngest IronPig at 23 years old and the No. 11 Prospect in the Phillies system according to Baseball America, retired the side on nine pitches in the first inning.
He gave up four hits, walked one and struckout nine in six innings of work.
It was a rough night for Yankees starter David Phelps, who hit Kevin Frandsen with one out in the first.
A Cory Sullivan single and a Delwyn Young groundout scored Frandsen with the first run of the night. Ronnie Belliard, who was released by the Yankees at the end of spring training and Brandon Moss had RBI singles for a 3-0 lead.
Some seasoned veterans, Delwyn Young and Jeff Larish played long ball to widen the IronPigs lead. Both hit roundtrippers in the fifth inning with the latter's coming with Belliard on base to make it 6-0. The other IronPigs run came in the 8th inning when Brandon Moss, who had three hits in the game, doubled and scored on a single by Josh Barfield.
"We jumped on them early and then just let Worley do his thing," said veteran Larish, who has spent time in the Oakland A's and Detroit Tigers system.
The hitting was outstanding as the Pigs finished the night with 10 hits as everyone but Frandsen reached safely at least once.
The pitching also held its own as besides Worley, Michael Stutes struckout three of the four batters he faces. On the night, the Pigs pitchers, which also included Jason Grilli and Scott Mathieson had 15 strikeouts.
General Manager Kurt Landes also wore a smile on his face and talked about what he hopes proves to be the seaons that turns the table for the IronPigs.
"At spring training, we went to dinner as a staff, with the coaches and Ryan and you could really tell, at least from my experience, there's more togetherness in this group," he said.
"I can sense it. I don't know what that means for wins or losses, but it feels good. You could tell the guys are very loose and excited to be here."
And it felt good not only for Landes, but for the team and the fans who walked away from Coca-Cola Park with a victory.
He even had a bottle of champagne on Sandberg's desk in his office to celebrate the historic win.
Tonight, the IronPigs will send Nate Bump to the mound to face the Yankees' Hector Noesi onwhat will be the tam's first fireworks night.