The Nationals promoted Isaac Ballou from short-season Auburn to Class A Hagerstown with a week left in the regular season, hoping the 23-year-old outfielder could get his feet wet in time to contribute in the South Atlantic League playoffs.
It looks like the plan has worked.
Ballou went 4-for-5 with a double and three runs scored on Saturday night as the Suns advanced to the SAL Championship Series with a 6-2 triumph over West Virginia.
Hagerstown took the best-of-3 semifinal, 2-1, and will face Savannah for the title in a best-of-5 series that begins Monday at Municipal Stadium.
Selected by Washington in the 15th round of this year's Draft, Ballou raised his postseason average to .583 after a disappointing six-game experiment to end the regular season. He batted .111 in his first 27 at-bats, striking out six times and failing to register an extra-base hit.
The Marshall University product has a double in each of his first three playoff games, going 1-for-4 in a series-opening 6-1 win and 2-for-3 with two runs scored in Friday night's 6-3 loss.
The leadoff hitter said the brief regular-season exposure to the SAL helped him prepare for postseason play.
"In short-season, there were a lot of 3-1 fastballs, 2-1 fastballs," Ballou said. "The first couple of games up here, there were a bunch of changeups. I wasn't struggling, necessarily, but I didn't swing like I should have, wasn't making the necessary adjustments.
"I discussed it with [manager] Tripp Keister, what my approach was and what I need to do, what he was seeing and how I was feeling. The rest is history. He says, 'I know you can play here. I have faith in you. Step up and be an intricate part of this team.'"
Ballou's first three hits Saturday came off Pirates No. 5 prospect Luis Heredia (0-1), who lasted three innings and surrendered three runs on 10 hits.
"There was no big secret tonight," Ballou said, "just go up and be aggressive."
The Suns' No. 2 hitter, Tony Renda, went 3-for-4 behind Ballou, picking up two RBIs and scoring a run. Shawn Pleffner and Wander Ramos also had two hits and two RBIs apiece.
After Hagerstown starter Kylin Turnbull (1-0) allowed two runs on six hits over five innings, Ronald Pena held the Power to one hit over the final four frames for his first playoff save.