ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. – Michael Knox became the first player in Mount Olive College baseball history to hit for the cycle on Tuesday in a 12-5 non-conference road win over North Carolina Wesleyan College.
The junior from Cary, N.C., collected a single in the first inning, a double in the third, a home run in the fourth, and a triple in the seventh for the Trojans, now 5-2 and ranked No. 14 nationally in NCAA Division II.
Knox led a 17-hit assault by Mount Olive against the Battling Bishops, who fell to 3-4 on the season. Andrew Manning added three hits, while Nick Gaeta, Daniel Coffey and Dan Hayduk each collected two hits. Coffey and Hayduk each had two RBI, while Gaeta scored three times.
Three players had two hits each for Wesleyan, who collected 10 total hits off four Mount Olive pitchers. Trojan reliever David Combs (2-0) was credited with the victory after holding the Bishops scoreless in three and one-third innings of work. Combs gave up two hits, walked two and struck out five.
Mount Olive jumped out to an 8-0 lead after three and a half innings, then survived one big charge by the Bishops en route to the win.
Trojan leadoff batter Ryan Faison set the tone for the day, leading off the game with a double and scoring when Gaeta followed with a single. Gaeta advanced to third on Knox’s single, and scored on Jacob Rogers’ single to give Mount Olive an early 2-0 lead.
Mount Olive added to the total in the third inning, scoring four times, most of the damage coming with two outs. Knox started the attack with a one-out double, and advanced to third on a fly out by Rogers. Wesleyan brought in reliever Jake Swartout, who was promptly greeted by a double from Coffey that scored Knox. The hit was the first of four straight off Swartout, who gave up an RBI single to Hayduk and consecutive RBI doubles to Tyler Smith and Manning.
The lead increased to 8-0 for the Trojans in the fourth, as Faison drew a walk to lead off the inning and scored two batters later on Knox’s home run. The blast was his fifth of the season in just seven games.
The Bishops lived up to their Battling nickname in the bottom of the fourth, fighting back with a five-run frame. Wesleyan collected five hits in the inning, including four in a row. Justin Rahm and Zach Alexander both had RBI doubles during that span.
Its lead cut to 8-5, Mount Olive pulled away again with a pair of runs in the sixth. Gaeta drew a one-out walk and Rogers delivered a two-out single, setting the stage for consecutive RBI singles by Coffey and Hayduk.
The Trojans capped their scoring – and Knox completed his rare cycle – in the seventh. After Murray drew a walk and scored on a two-out error off the bat of Gaeta, Knox collected the final piece of the cycle, a triple to center that scored Gaeta. The RBI was Knox’ third of the day and 14th of the young season. He also raised his batting average to .436 after the four-hit game.
The contest completed a seven-game road trip to open the season for Mount Olive. The Trojans will finally make their home debut on Wednesday when they take on Shaw University in a 2:30 p.m. start at Scarborough Field.