From the most routine of circumstances emerged the unlikeliest of heroes for Daytona.
In his Florida State League debut, Jake Paulson gave up two hits over seven scoreless innings on Saturday as the Tortugas defeated Charlotte, 6-1, to avoid a sweep on the best-of-5 Championship Series.
Paulson, who was promoted from Class A Dayton on Tuesday, detailed the road that led him to the mound at Charlotte Sports Park with his team facing elimination.
"The very last game of the season I was supposed to start and [Dayton manager Jose Nieves] told me that he didn't want me to start that game because I was going to Daytona," the 23-year-old right-hander said. "It was really exciting. I didn't know what my role was going to be in Daytona. They told me I was either going to start or come out of the bullpen."
The Tortugas opted for starting him after he made 14 starts and 19 relief appearances in the Midwest League. As for the decision to send him to the mound with the season on the line?
"That's just how the starting rotation worked," Paulson said. "I happened to fall in that spot, I guess."
The Michigan native responded with his best start of the season as he used his sinker to induce 15 ground-ball outs, including one double play, while allowing just one runner to get as far as second base.
The Tortugas finally gave their pitcher a lead when Sebastian Elizalde smacked a three-run homer in the sixth off Charlotte reliever Mike Franco. According to Paulson, the 23-year-old right fielder provided the spark needed to jump-start an offense that had been held to one run in the first two games of the series.
"He was outstanding," Paulson said. "The three-run home run was off a 3-0 pitch, and I don't think anyone on our team was expecting it. He didn't miss the ball at all, so it went a long way. That really got the team going."
Daytona added three runs in the ninth as Elizalde tripled home Daniel Pigott and scored on a double by Reds No. 23 prospect Taylor Sparks. Eighth-ranked Cincinnati prospect Blake Trahan singled home Sparks to cap the scoring.
Paulson's outing extended the season for Daytona, which will return to Charlotte for Game 4 on Sunday, with No. 3 Reds prospect Amir Garrett on the mound against Rays No. 3 prospect Brent Honeywell.
"I wouldn't say I was surprised," Paulson said, reflecting on his big night. "I knew what I had to do to get this team a win. I just needed to go as deep as possible in the game and give our team the best chance of winning.
"We've just got to keep on pitching well, keep on making the plays behind us and get some timely hitting."