It will be forever known in Lower Columbia College baseball lore as "The Catch."
Derrick Salberg's leaping catch over the left field bullpen fence with a runner on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning robbed Everett as the Red Devils held on for a 4-2 victory in the first round of the NWAACC Baseball Championships at David Story Field on Friday.
"By far the best catch I've ever made," Salberg said of a play that ended up No. 1 on SportsCenter's countdown of the top 10 plays of the day Friday night. "I was waiting for the bullpen pitchers to tell me I was getting close to the fence. Thank God I didn't run into the fence, and I've got some hops."
Salberg's leaping grab, coupled with a strong pitching performance from Brandon Boyle, propelled the Red Devils (29-13) into a winner's bracket semifinal against Mount Hood (36-9) at 4:35 p.m. Saturday. The Saints won their opener over Columbia Basin 3-2 on Friday.
"That's a wow moment," LCC coach Kelly Smith said of 'The Catch.' "That's the best catch I've seen under pressure. It's definitely highlight-reel material, send it to ESPN."
Boyle, who had a three-hitter through eight innings, surrendered a leadoff single to Ryan Sells to open the ninth. Everett cleanup hitter Daniel Orr followed with a base hit to center, and both runners moved up a base when LCC center fielder Spencer Hannah's throw got past third baseman Mac Gridley and into foul territory.
"Boyle got a little behind in the count in the eighth and ninth innings and fought to keep his composure," Smith said. LCC pitching coach Chad Wagner "went out there and told him to breathe. Boyle sometimes goes a half-inning or so and doesn't breathe. Air is important."
Two outs later, Everett's Keone Kela belted a 1-1 fastball to deep left field, only to have it caught by a leaping Salberg. The Kelso grad easily cleared the four-foot high fence in front of the LCC bullpen, and held on to the ball as he landed in the grass on his back.
"When I saw it coming I told myself I was going to get it," Salberg said. "I wasn't doing well at the plate so I was going to make up for it with defense. It hurt when I landed on my back, but the adrenaline took the pain away because I saved my team a victory."
Boyle, who threw 82 of his 126 pitches for strikes, was grateful.
"The last pitch was a fastball down the middle," Boyle recalled. "Luckily there was a short fence and he was able to jump and grab it. That's got to be one of the best plays I've ever seen in any sport, and it definitely saved my butt."
Smith, who also calls all of the Red Devils' pitches, was quick to take the blame for the potentially disastrous pitch selection.
"I should've called for Brandon to throw a few more curveballs and change-ups, but (Kela) was sitting dead-red and he jumped all over it."
Salberg was mobbed by teammates after he leaped the fence back onto the field, and he and Kela shared a postgame handshake and hug as a sign of sportsmanship.
"When I saw the ball heading towards going over the fence I thought it would be a fitting end to a game we should've won a number of times with situational hitting," Smith said. "I had an old person's moment where I think my heart stopped, but I revived myself when Salberg made the catch. The fans definitely got their money's worth."
LCC nicked Everett lefty JoJo Howie for two runs in the second, highlighted by a leadoff double from Kyle Leady, and subsequent singles by Michael Monda, Zach Slesk and Robbie Groeschell. Leady opened the sixth with a base hit, and later scored on a Monda single which pushed the Devils ahead 3-0.
In the ninth, Sam Williams milked a leadoff walk and moved to third when Monda put down a sacrifice bunt that was thrown over the first baseman's head towards the Everett bullpen. Williams scampered home and Monda stopped a third, but both were moved back to second and third on an umpire ruling.
Gridley walked to load the bases, and Groeschell hit a sharp grounder to Everett shortstop Maxx Whitt. But Whitt's throw pulled catcher Cody Reed off the plate for a potential force-out, and Reed was unable to get a tag on a sliding Williams.
Salberg hopes "The Catch" foreshadows things to come.
"I hope this jump-starts us for our next game and gives us momentum through the tournament."