GREENSBORO-Sometimes it can take a while to shake off the rust, as the North Carolina A&T baseball team discovered in a 10-2 loss to Appalachian State on Tuesday evening.
Redshirt senior right-hander Tim Jones made his first appearance on the mound since March 26, 2011. He gave up five runs on four hits in two innings of Tuesday's game against Appalachian State. Jones, who is a graduate student at A&T, was the 2008 MEAC Rookie of the Year for Florida A&M. He had a strong season in 2009 for the Rattlers, before missing all of 2010 and most of 2011 due to injury. The Mountaineers also took three runs on four hits off Cameron Jergens, who last pitched on March 9, in the eighth inning.
"I wanted to see what he had. He was a little rusty. Obviously he hasn't faced hitters in a while," said A&T head coach Joel Sanchez of Jones. "He had a little rust and knocked it off hopefully. Cameron Jergens hadn't pitched in a while. He was a little rusty as well. So, scratch this one off the board and move on to the weekend. We hope to have another strong conference weekend."
The Mountaineers (11-7, 3-3 SoCon) took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Hector Crespo singled through the left side. He stole second and took third on a single to right by Preston Troutman. Crespo later scored on a wild pitch. Jones hit Jaylin Davis with a pitch to put two on with no out for Will Callaway. While Callaway was batting, Davis stole second. Troutman, seeing the play unfold slowly at second made a dash for home. A&T second baseman Jeovanny Tolentino threw the ball to catcher Stefan Jordan, but the tag wasn't in time. Jones then retired Callaway and the next two batters to get out of the inning.
The Aggies responded immediately. With runners on the corners, Freeman grounded out to second, allowing shortstop Luke Tendler to score. An RBI single up the middle by left fielder Andre McKoy tied the game at 2-2. McKoy led the team with three hits in the game.
"They scored a couple and we answered back in the bottom of the inning. We've been swinging it pretty good of late," Sanchez said.
A two-RBI double by Crespo put the Mountaineers in front, 4-2, in the second. Crespo scored the team's fifth run as Troutman reached on a fielding error by Tolentino. The Aggies called on Jamal Clark to relieve Jones to open the third. He kept ASU scoreless for the five straight innings.
"We kept it five runs early, we kept it close. Jamal Clark came in and gave us quality innings, giving us a chance to get back in the game. We just couldn't get guys on base with key hits," Said Sanchez.
But ASU starter Chad Farmer was stingy, keeping the Aggies off the board. He allowed just six hits in 7.0 innings and fanned seven batters in the contest. But the Aggies threatened to close the three-run gap in the seventh. Senior third baseman Mark Nales led off with a single to right, and then stole second. Sophomore centerfielder Brandon Wilkerson singled to right, and Nales came around to score. But he was put out at home for the second out of the inning. Jordan then went down swinging to end the frame.
Davis tripled off the centerfield wall to start off the eighth for the Mountaineers. He scored on an RBI single by Callaway to make it a 6-2 game. Jergens then came in to pitch for the Aggies. The Mountaineers scored four more runs on four hits and two A&T errors to take a 10-2 lead.
A&T put runners on the corners with two out on a double by McKoy and a walk by Nales in the ninth inning, as the Aggies worked to rally. But Wilkerson flew out to right to end the game.
"They had a pretty good guy going on the mound, throwing pitches for strikes. Credit to their guy, he did a good job of keeping us off balance," said Sanchez. "We just couldn't string some hits together to get back in it."
The Aggies will host Savannah State in a three-game series this weekend. Action kicks off with a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday and ends with a 1 p.m. Sunday matinee at War Memorial Stadium.