TALLAHASSEE, Fla. —The “traitor” catcalls came as he ran in from the bullpen in the sixth inning at Moore-Kittles Field. But the name-calling didn’t irk redshirt senior Tim Jones, who played baseball for four seasons at Florida A&M before beginning graduate school and joining the North Carolina A&T baseball team this year.
“I’m Alpha Phi Alpha, so my frat brothers were trying to give me a hard time,” Jones said. “It’s all good. They came to the game and were the ones giving me all that grief.”
Jones was the one who ended up dishing out more grief, holding Florida A&M scoreless in 2.1 innings en route to A&T’s 12-7 victory on Sunday afternoon. Jeovanny Tolentino, Dylan Hipp and Brandon Wilkerson all had three hits for the Aggies (9-18, 5-6). Senior Kelvin Freeman had three RBI as the Aggies picked up their second conference series victory with Sunday’s win against the Rattlers (2-27, 2-10).
“It felt good, you know, coming back. I have a lot of family and friends still here,” Jones said about his appearance. “At the end of the day, each game is important. I just had to keep my mind right and keep focused. I wanted to show out for my family and friends.”
Jones allowed one hit and struck out four of the 13 batters he faced on Sunday. It was his third appearance of the season, and the first in relief. Jones, who earned 2008 MEAC Rookie of the Year honors for the Rattlers, last pitched for FAMU on March 26, 2011. He spent the rest of the season injured, and did not pitch again in a game until starting for A&T on March 19 against Appalachian State.
He entered the game with the runners on the corners and struck out the next two batters to halt the FAMU rally. He struck out two batters to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh. Jones collected two more ours in the eighth before being replaced by Luke Tendler after FAMU loaded the bases.
“It felt good. I think I ran out of gas right there at the end, but for the most part I can build off that performance,” he said.
While Jones enjoyed pitching again in front of family and friends in Tallahassee, Tendler had to battle some early nerves as he made his first career appearance on the hill.
“Really, I was just trying to throw strikes and keep the ball away from them, and staying calm out there as much as I could. I was a little nervous at first,” he said.
Tendler, who’s been a key part of the A&T infield for the past three years, was kept from the starting lineup on Sunday after dislocating his pinky finger on his left hand sliding into second base, Saturday afternoon.
But when it came time to find a pitcher to relieve Jones, A&T head coach Joel Sanchez turned to Tendler in a move to help save his bullpen for the team’s upcoming midweek games against Campbell and Radford. Sanchez knew that the right-handed Tendler had the stuff to keep the Rattlers off balance at the plate. Tendler has pitched in Legion baseball and in practice.
Tendler took the supportive tape off his injured finger, and took the ball from Sanchez. With the bases loaded and two out, Tendler got pinch hitter Aaron Smith to go down swinging to hold the Rattlers scoreless in the eighth.
“We thought we were going to walk away with it and we didn’t. We had to battle,” said Sanchez. “Bottom line is a win’s a win, especially a conference win. So, that’s what our goal was to go out and win every conference series. We accomplished that goal for the weekend.”
A&T will host Campbell on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium.