Smaran Ramanathan was Denmark's fifth pitcher Friday night against South Forsyth, but there's a reason he ended up being their last.
Ramanathan entered the game in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs and the bases loaded, with Denmark clinging to a two-run lead. The Danes led by as many as seven runs after the first three innings, but South had the tying run on second base and the go-ahead run on first.
On top of that, Ramanathan was tasked with facing South slugger Ryan Becker, who already launched a no-doubt solo home run in the fourth inning and reached base on a single the previous inning.
But Ramanathan dialed in, fighting through a seven-pitch at-bat to get Becker to fly out to left field and strand all three runners, ending the threat as Denmark held off South 9-8 to win the season series.
"Smaran always goes out and attacks the zone," said Denmark coach Jamie Corr, who is leading the Danes in the absence of head coach David Smart. "He's got ice in his veins, he never gets rattled and he knows he can just throw it over the plate and rely on his defense."
Ramanathan worked himself into a jam in the bottom of the seventh, allowing back-to-back one-out doubles to Addison Paschall and Mitch Thompson. Thompson reached third on Jacob Bateman's flyout, but after an intentional walk to South leadoff hitter Gehrig Frei, Ramanathan got Alex Urias to fly out to right and end the game.
"Every win in this region is so important, because everybody is locked up at .500 records," Corr said. "Everybody but Lambert is pretty much one game over .500 or one game under .500, so every time you can get a win, you've got to grab it."
Denmark jumped all over South in the first inning, using three straight singles from Nic Ferrer, Brody Wheeler and JJ Corr to grab a 1-0 lead. Wheeler and Corr scored on a pair of errors, while Jake Myers and Ferrer each drew a bases-loaded walk as the Danes batted around in the opening frame and grabbed a 5-0 lead.
Gray Wilson added an RBI single in the second inning and Connor McGinn's base knock in the third plated Wheeler to extend Denmark's lead to 7-0.
Becker homered off Denmark starter Drew Clare to give South its first run, and the War Eagles followed with a five-run frame of their own.
After a pair of walks and a hit batsmen to open the fifth, Clare was lifted in favor of Jacob Kruger. Kruger hit the first batter he faced, then gave up an two-run single to Jack D'Amico before allowing Urias to score on a wild pitch, then walking Brennan Hudson.
Suddenly, South trailed only 7-5 with runners on first and second and nobody out.
"It's tough," JJ Corr said. "Your stomach's rumbling a little bit, but you've just got to stay strong and know that you can pick up the next kid."
Denmark turned to submarine pitcher Harry Harris, who surrendered a single to Becker to load the bases, then got Andrew Kightlinger to ground into the 4-6-3 double play. JJ Corr fielded the ground ball, flipped to Ferrer at shortstop, who fired to Jake Myers at first. D'Amico scored on the play, but it was a trade the Danes were willing to make.
Harris then got Paschall to line out to strand Hudson at third and end the threat.
"We go to Harry when we need the ground ball. He does a great job of sinking it down in the zone, and he can get the guys to roll over into a ground ball," Jamie Corr said. "I think they got one that went through the six-hole, but other than that, he came back and got the next couple guys on good, low pitches and relied on his defense once again to come up and make a routine play."
Ferrer led the Danes at the plate, finishing 2-for-3 with two RBIs, scoring once and walking twice. McGinn (3-for-4, 2 runs, 1 RBI) and Wilson (2-for-4, 1 RBI) also collected multiple hits for Denmark.
Clare earned the win after pitching four innings of four-run ball, surrendering only two hits and walking three. Ramanathan earned the save and gave up one run on two hits over 1 1/3 innings to give Denmark its fourth straight victory.
"We're trying to get back to mastering the basics of the game," Jamie Corr said. "We're trying to throw strikes, make the routine play and have good situational hitting. The guys are doing a great job of not trying to do too much and just focusing on doing their job."
Denmark's offense tallied nine hits in the win — all singles.
Denmark (9-12, 6-4 Region 6-7A) will host West Forsyth at 6:15 p.m. Monday, while South (12-9, 4-6 Region 6-7A) will travel to North Forsyth at 6:15 p.m. Monday.
"It's huge. Putting us at 6-4 is a whole different ballgame," JJ Corr said of the win. "We had to win that series. I'm so proud of my team — my boys — and it's just a great win. It's going to help us leap forward to the playoffs and hopefully we can run it."