Richie Shaffer has been on a tear since being promoted to the International League. Friday, though, was something on a different level.
The Rays' No. 19 prospect sandwiched a pair of solo homers around a two-run shot to power Triple-A Durham to an 11-7 road win over Louisville.
Shaffer started the scoring for the Bulls with a leadoff blast in the top of the second. Three innings later, the 24-year-old third baseman launched a two-run homer, then capped his historic night with another solo shot in the seventh.
"I felt really good," Shaffer said. "Usually, I have a whole routine I do. I went down there and I took like eight or 10 swings off the tee and was like, 'I'm good'. I felt really good today. It was just one of those days where you're seeing the ball well."
It was the third three-homer game in Durham history and the first since Justin Ruggiano accomplished the feat on May 1, 2009. It's also the third hat trick in the Minor Leagues this season and first in the International League.
"It was pretty cool," Shaffer said. "The Bulls have been around for a long time and to be mentioned in the long history of players that have played there is pretty cool, for sure."
A North Carolina native, Shaffer has set a torrid pace since his promotion from Double-A Montgomery on May 24. He boasts a .328/.412/.759 slash line with seven homers and 14 RBIs in 17 games with Durham.
"I just think I'm doing a good job of getting myself into good counts to hit, staying within myself and not overswinging," said Shaffer, who already ranks seventh in the International League in home runs. "With my natural swing, I tend to get the ball in the air. The more I focus on good barrel, the more I'm going to get good results."
Overall, the 2012 first-round pick is on his way to the best year of his career. With 14 homers across two levels, he's five short of matching his personal best, set last year with Montgomery. Shaffer also is drawing walks at a slightly better rate than last year, with 31 free passes in 56 games after totaling 56 walks in 119 games last season.
"I just kind of have fun and let things go a little bit," he said. "Last year, I would let an 0-for-4 [game] put pressure on me the next day. This year, I sort of come to the park and have fun and be loose and relaxed and enjoy playing the game.
"On top of that, I put in a lot of work. I got a lot stronger, that was a big thing. I worked out in Charlotte, [North Carolina], every day of the offseason. I put on close to 25 pounds of muscle, it was the right kind of muscle. It has helped me every step of the way."
Taylor Motter contributed two hits and two RBIs for the Bulls, while Rays No, 13 prospect Hak-Ju Lee doubled, singled and scored a run.
Dylan Floro -- Tampa's 27th-ranked prospect -- improved to 7-4, despite giving up seven runs -- six earned -- on 10 hits and three walks while striking out five over five innings.
Irving Falu reached base four times and scored twice for the Bats.
Robert Emrich is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich.