March 9, 2011
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Senior third baseman Matt Duffy hit for just the second cycle in Tennessee baseball history as the Volunteers scored 10 runs with two outs en route to an 18-4 victory over New Orleans on Wednesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Chris Burke is the only other UT player to have accomplished the rare feat, doing so against Vanderbilt on May 11, 2001.
"Anytime the play-by-play is two pages it's either really good or really bad," UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. "Fortunately for us, it was good tonight. Obviously, Duffy really stood out. Even his outs were smoked. He had a great night, but he has played extremely well all season.
"To hit for the cycle is always very special and something I'm sure he will never forget. It is a tribute to all of the hard work he has put in and just shows how special he is as a player. I also thought T.J. (Thornton) did a good job in his first career appearance and really set the tone on the mound. (Andrew) Toles had another great game as well."
Duffy finished the contest 4-for-6 at the plate with a career-high three runs scored and four RBIs. He had a double in the first inning, a triple in the fourth, his second home run of the season in the fifth and a single in the eighth.
"(Hitting for the cycle) is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so it is pretty exciting," Duffy said. "I was just locked in today. Sometimes the ball looks like a beach ball. Today it looked huge and I guess I didn't miss.
"We worked hard in the offseason and came into the year with the right mindset. We have great batting facilities here and we are in there at least an hour a day, so I think our hard work is starting to pay off. Chris Burke was obviously a great player here at Tennessee. It's an honor to be mentioned in same breath as him and this is an experience I will never forget."
Through the first 11 games of the season, Duffy leads the UT squad with a spectacular .475 batting average, two home runs, 19 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .800. The Milton, Mass., native has had at least two hits in each of the last four games and at least three RBIs in the last three. During his four-game hitting streak, he is hitting .588 with 10 hits, 10 RBIs, two home runs and six runs in 17 at-bats.
Although overshadowed a bit by Duffy's accomplishment, freshman Andrew Toles had his most productive offensive performance to date, going 3-for-5 with a stolen base in addition to scoring two runs and driving in five others. The five RBIs are the most by a UT player so far this season. He finished just a home run from a cycle of his own, is now hitting .350 on the year and holds a team-best six-game hitting streak.
Sophomore Chris Fritts also authored a three-hit night, while senior Khayyan Norfork and freshman Ethan Bennett each had a pair of hits as well. Bennett and senior Josh Liles each knocked in two runs and Norfork scored three times and stole his league-leading 12th base of the year. Norfork now has at least one stolen base in seven straight contests.
A total of 21 Vols played in Wednesday's contest, with two making their Tennessee debuts and two others playing for the first time this season. Of the newcomers, junior T.J. Thornton made the biggest impact, notching his first UT victory with three solid innings as the Orange and White's starting pitcher. He allowed one run on three hits while striking out three and walking one.
Sophomores Nick Blount, Hunter Daniel and Josh Allman, and freshmen Carter Watson and Dalton Saberhagen combined to pitch 5.2 innings of three-hit ball and did not allow a run between them out of the bullpen.
Tennessee scored in six of the eight innings it went to the plate, starting with its first opportunity when it plated two unearned runs in the bottom of the first on a double to the left-center gap by Liles. The scoring continued in the second when a single by Norfork brought Chris Pierce in from third to make it 3-0 in favor of the Vols.
After a run by New Orleans in the third, the Big Orange offense really started to roll, batting around and scoring six runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. Following a sacrifice fly by junior Zach Osborne that put two outs on the board in the fourth, UT got a walk by Norfork and back-to-back triples from Toles and Duffy. A Privateer fielding error, another walk and a double by Fritts rounded out the scoring for the frame and brought the tally to 9-1.
The Vols continued their torrid pace in the fifth frame, plating six more runs on four hits and two errors. Toles got the damage started with a run-scoring infield single. Duffy later launched a three-run home run and Bennett finished things off with a two-RBI single.
The deluge carried over to the sixth when Toles knocked in two more runs, following a Davis Morgan single and a Norfork double with a two-bagger of his own. UT's final tally came in the bottom of the eighth when junior Wes Walker recorded his first RBI as a Vol with a groundout that brought sophomore Andy Yates in to score. Earlier in that frame, freshman Hunter Mitchem tallied his first career hit with a sharply hit single to left.
The victory improves Tennessee's record to 9-2 on the season, its best start since opening the 2006 campaign with a 14-2 record. The Big Orange will continue its season-opening 16-game homestand this weekend when Manhattan makes the trek to Rocky Top for a four-game set, starting with a 4 p.m. showdown on Friday afternoon. The two teams will battle twice on Saturday (1 p.m. / 4 p.m.) and again at 1 p.m. on Sunday.