QUINCY -- When EJ Ramos came out of the bullpen with the bases loaded, nobody out, and the Quincy Gems clinging to a two-run lead in the top of the eighth inning, he knew he needed to stay calm.
"I didn't worry about the guys on base, I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes," Ramos said.
The freshman from Illinois Central College did just that, getting a fielder's out choice at home before notching back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning and help the Gems secure a 3-1 win over the Danville Dans. Ramos also threw a scoreless ninth inning to pick up his eighth save.
"I wanted to get in there and make them hit the ball, and I was able to get them out," Ramos said.
The victory is the eighth in the last 10 games for the Gems, and pulls Quincy within five games of the Dans for the final playoff spot in the Prospect League with seven games left on the schedule.
"The guys are just playing really relaxed right now," Quincy manager Chris Martin said. "We're taking it one day at a time right now, and if we're able to make a run into the playoffs that would be great."
Ramos' performance out of the bullpen came on the heels of a masterful performance on the mound by starting pitcher JT Baksha, who held the Dans to just one hit and an unearned run while striking out eight batters in seven innings.
"I knew that tonight was a must win if we want to make the postseason," Baksha said. "I focused on throwing strikes and trusted my team to back me up.
The Gems gave Baksha peace of mind early, putting a pair of runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning. Aaron Meyer reached second base following a one-out single and a throwing error by Dans' right fielder Aaron Case. After a ground ball moved Meyer to third, he scored on a two-out single off the bat of Anthony Villa to put the Gems on the board. Villa later scored on a single by Jake Walters after advancing to second base on a passed ball.
"When you score, it makes it a lot easier to relax on the mound and hit your spots," Baksha said.
The score would remain 2-0 until the bottom of the sixth, when Justin Wylie led off the inning with a home run over the right field wall to give the Gems a three-run lead.
Danville managed to break through in the top of the seventh after Baksha surrendered a leadoff walk to Justin Bridgman. After advancing to second base on a sacrifice, he scored when Quincy catcher Toran Shahidi threw the ball into left field as Bridgman attempted to steal third.
Zach Morrisey came on to start the eight for Quincy, but came out of the game after loading the bases on a double, hit batter, and bunt single. That set the stage for Ramos' clutch escape.
"(Ramos) was pumped up coming into that situation, and that's what you want from your back-end guys," Martin said. "He comes in with guys on base often, and he did a great job tonight."
Ramos sees no reason that the Gems can't keep winning and make a run at the playoffs.
"We're moving right now," Ramos said. "We just want to keep on winning."
The Gems take on the Hannibal Caveman on the road before coming back home for a doubleheader against the Terra Haute Rex Sunday night.