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Playing through pain: 2 Nevada natives, Jamestown baseball players work through loss on the field

Jerome Byndloss, left, a University of Jamestown junior from Las Vegas, and Tanner Roundy, a UJ senior from Henderson, Nev., talk Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, about the recent mass shooting in Vegas. Roundy lost his best friend and Byndloss said high school classmates were wounded and killed in the shooting. Family members were also at the concert but are OK. The two UJ students are key players on the Jimmie baseball team. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Two University of Jamestown students who lost friends in the Las Vegas mass shooting Sunday, Oct. 1, say the support of a school and the love of a game have helped in handling unimaginable grief.

Tanner Roundy, a UJ senior from Henderson, Nev., lost his best friend while other family and friends who were at the concert are suffering in the aftermath. He flew home Thursday afternoon.

Quinton Robbins, 20, was near the stage of the country music festival with his girlfriend when he was struck in the chest by a bullet from the hotel sniper who killed 58 people and wounded over 400 others before taking his own life.

"He was one of my best friends," Roundy said.

Roundy and Robbins were together nearly every day of his week home during summer break. They played basketball at a church and hung out with other friends.

"Every night he'd say 'what do you want to do?"' Roundy said.

Roundy said he was in bed when he saw the first news reports of the shooting occurring in Las Vegas. He thought it looked "crazy" but didn't think it was that serious at first.

"When I saw the first video come out I started thinking this is pretty serious and I need to find out who was there and I started checking," he said.

The first Twitter post he saw was "Pray for Q," a nickname for Robbins. Someone told him Robbins was shot but no one knew his condition at the time.

"I made a lot of phone calls," Roundy said.

Robbins was a Las Vegas city worker who wanted to be a dentist, Roundy said. He had a great relationship with his girlfriend and everything was going so well, he said.

"Everybody loved him," Roundy said. "This impacted a lot of people. He was great friends with so many people."

Roundy said a cousin and a friend were also near the stage at the concert. They were both kicked out of the concert for fighting before the shooting, he said.

"What would have happened if they didn't get kicked out?" he said.

Friends and cousins who were at the concert said they have not slept, he said. They close their eyes and remember the gunshots, he said.

The "why and the how" of the shooting will come out at some point in time. For now he doesn't want to dwell on it.

Jerome Byndloss, a UJ junior from Las Vegas who is studying physical education, said Las Vegas is a big city but that everyone knows everybody through somebody. He attended Las Vegas High School and said classmates were among those killed or wounded in the shooting.

"I know quite a few people who were there (at the concert) and some of them were either killed or hurt," Byndloss said. "A lot of my family were there and to see how hurt they are even though they are safe is kind of heartbreaking."

Byndloss had already gone to bed Sunday and awoke just before 4 a.m. to a barrage of texts and FaceTime calls from people wanting to know where he was and if he was OK. A friend told him to call his family and make sure everyone was safe.

"I was freaking out at this point," Byndloss said.

He called home but neither his mother or father answered the phone. He kept trying and eventually reached his mother.

"She was just in tears and said 'You need to call everybody that you know right now and make sure they are all right,'" he said.

After checking social media Byndloss said he found prayer calls for people who were shot. No one seemed to know the status of the victims, he said.

He learned that one high school friend was shot in the back while protecting his girlfriend. A former girlfriend was there with friends and he heard that she was wounded, he said.

"Just seeing how many people were hurt in this; it's hard to grasp and take in all at once," Byndloss said. "It is really, really hard."

Watching the city of Las Vegas go dark to honor the victims put things in perspective, he said. It was the first time he ever recalled the Strip was completely dark.

Byndloss said he would like to be home but chose to use what would be his airfare to donate to the various funeral funds set up by the families of his friends. He said his parents will attend the funerals for him.

"It's hard but it's the right thing to do," he said. "It's the one way I can help and they really appreciate it."

Play through pain

On Monday night the two starting Jimmies baseball players provided stellar performances in a 7-0 win against Mayville State at Jack Brown Stadium. No one expected them to play but the team and the school really reached out with support, Byndloss said.

Byndloss struck out six batters and allowed just four hits in six shutout innings for his second win of the season. Roundy went 2-for-4 with a home run and a double.

"I honestly didn't want to play and I talked to my dad and he said 'you should play,'" Byndloss said. "Then I said 'yes, I want to do this for my friends and for my city.'"

It was not easy. He said he nearly broke down at the sight of the flag at half-staff in the outfield of Jack Brown Stadium and during the national anthem.

"Then I saw Tanner holding himself together so I thought, 'I can do this too,'" he said.

The game helped to block everything out, he said. He didn't want to be relieved after six innings.

"I wanted to keep playing and not think about it," Byndloss said.

Back on the bench he said the team's effort took a load off his shoulders. When Roundy hit his home run it meant everything, he said.

"I was the first one out of the dugout and I sprinted over there," Byndloss said. "I needed to give him a hug and we hugged again in the dugout."

Roundy said everyone kept asking if he was going to play. He said he had to play.

It was not easy walking onto the field, he said. When walking up to bat all he could do was think that it was important to keep breathing.

Roundy said he recalls watching the first pitch leave the pitcher's hand but doesn't really remember thinking to swing. Everything just happened, he said. He remembers running hard, not knowing if the ball would clear the wall.

"That whole day I saw the ball probably better than I've seen the ball, ever, and it seemed like everything just was right there," he said. "I had a feeling he (Robbins) was up there watching and that he helped me with that, obviously."

It also meant a lot to have Byndloss there by his side, he said. He felt the weight of the moment in the hug, he said.

"I was definitely feeling it through him and it was definitely some weight off the shoulders after that game," he said. "For sure it helped."

UJ baseball coach Tom Hager said the coaches talk all the time about finding a way to get the job done during difficult situations. This was a perfect example, he said.

"I'm very proud of how these guys handled themselves this week during a difficult time of adversity," Hager said. "I'm glad they enjoyed playing the game Monday night and they played it at a high level and I know the coaches and their teammates are very proud of them."