EMERSON, Ga. – Looking through the program of the 13u PG/EC Invitational, there is something that is sure to stir some heads. Is there a team playing in this tournament whose name is really the Iron Pigs? The answer is yes. With a name like that, there is sure to be a great story behind it.
“It was a group thing a couple of years ago,” said head coach Wayne Harrell. “We had two teams that were combining together with another organization, and neither one of us wanted to take on the other team’s name. So, we put it out to a vote for the boys, and that’s what they voted on.”
Leave it up to a bunch of 13-year-old kids to come up with a great name like that. Either way, the Iron Pigs were born, and they are here to stay.
Based out of Fort Myers, Florida, the team has the ability to play year round because of the hot temperatures the state receives throughout the year. Being in an area where so much baseball can be played, the Iron Pigs not only can train and become better as a team, they also benefit from having the opportunity to play other great teams all of the time without going to far from home.
“Down in Florida there are a lot of good baseball teams,” mentioned Harrell. “We see it every game, every weekend.”
Although they technically do not have to leave the state of Florida to find the kind of competition they are looking to play, this team understands how great of an opportunity it is to come to places like Georgia to show off their talent. For kids at this age, it’s almost just as much about the enjoyment of being away on a semi-vacation as it is about playing baseball. Harrell believes that coming up here to play is extremely beneficial because his team gets to play new teams and play at a bunch of different places they would not be able to play at otherwise. But, he also understands that these kids are still young, and the idea of staying in a hotel with their friends is a fun time. With that said, he does think that traveling and having everyone stay in the same place helps bring the team together.
“The boys [are] building the team itself with getting the boys together and letting them stay in the hotel for a week and have fun.”
Through the first three days of the 13u PG/EC Invite, it would seem that the Iron Pigs are only strictly here on a business trip. That was evident in today’s game at LakePoint, where they took on SPX Baseball, another undefeated team in their pool.
Led by a beautifully pitched game by starting pitcher Tom Wilander, the Iron Pigs held on for a 3-2 victory, improving their record to 2-0. Wilander went all seven innings, and he did not allow a run until the seventh inning. With SPX threatening to steal a win, Wilander struck out the final batter of the game, securing the win for the Iron Pigs.
“He was outstanding,” Harrell raved about his pitcher. “We lived on the edge all day long. We only threw six breaking balls the entire game. We pounded the strike zone.”
Maybe the most impressive thing was that Wilander never lost confidence in his pitching even when the opponents put pressure on him and his defense late in the game. He stuck with his fastball, and he decided, win or lose, he was going to throw his best pitch.
This win put them in a great position to move on to the bracket play portion of the tournament, which starts tomorrow. While most teams try to strategically plan out their pitching to save arms in case they make it deep in the tournament, this team likes to live in the moment and play each game like it is the championship game. That is something that is great for kids at this age because they understand that in every single game, they should go out there with the same mindset: to play their hardest and try to win.
“We go out and try to win every game,” Harrell noted. “I don’t save anything. We go to win every game. The boys play as hard as they possibly can every game. We don’t save anything. We don’t pitch off because we are already in [bracket play] or whatever, we go to win every game we play.”
After the outing put in by Wilander and the strong pitching performance in their first game, the Iron Pigs have just so happened to only use three pitchers thus far. The more they continue to play the way they have been, the less of a worry pitching will be. If today is any indication as to what will happen in the future, do not be surprised to see the Iron Pigs name posted on the scoreboard at LakePoint for the championship game on Friday.