Devon Conley had just moved into position.
The center fielder was moving into the shift Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock had called when he saw the ball pop up into the air heading to a no-man’s land in shallow left-center field.
Conley put his head down and ran.
Then — at the last second — he caught a glimpse of the ball and dove, fully extending his body and reaching out with his glove.
His sunglasses few off of his hat.
He hit the turf hard. And the ball came down into his outstretched glove.
“It landed perfect in my club glove, and all I did was close it. It was amazing,” Conley said. “I honestly don’t know how I caught it. It was something crazy. It was just kind of in the moment, and I ended up coming out on top for my team.”
The catch came at the perfect moment.
It ended College of Charleston’s threat. They had a runner in scoring position and if the ball didn’t land in his glove the game would have been tied. The Cougars’ Champ Rowland would have been the hero.
But it did. And without it the Red Raiders wouldn’t be headed to Omaha, Nebraska and the College World Series to face the winner of TCU and Pepperdine for a shot at the NCAA championship.
There is no denying the pitching was phenomenal this weekend as Texas Tech won two 1-0 games over the College of Charleston to advance to Omaha.
But, it was the catch that will stand the test of time as fans remember the run this Red Raiders team has made.
It was the defining moment.
“At the time it meant they didn’t score any runs. That is the simplest thing,” Tadlock said. “Now that the game is over, I imagine we’ll be talking about that catch a long time, right? ... As far as the grand scheme of deals, as far as what it means, I don’t think we’ll really know that until I mean, we’ve got some more games to play.”
And it is because of that catch. A catch that no one could really see coming.
When it came off the bat,
Dylan Dusek didn’t think Conley would reach it.
“When I saw that catch, I wasn’t expecting it to happen, that’s how awesome it was,” Dusek said. “That’s how far he extended in foot on that turf, so probably one of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen.”
From his spot in left field, Tyler Neslony couldn’t even see it.
“He made a great play,” Neslony said. “That’s probably one of the biggest, clutch catches I’ve ever seen.”
Not even Conley knows how he caught it.
It might have been the greatest catch anyone has ever seen.
Or maybe it was the best.
That was the only possible debate.
It was big. It was huge.
It was trending on Twitter.
Even College of Charleston coach Monte Lee admitted it was the best he had ever seen.
Of course, it was the main reason his team had lost.
“Their center fielder made one of the best catches I have ever seen,” Lee said. “I have been coaching for 14 years and seen a lot of baseball catches and for him to cover that kind of ground ... we had a two strike hit there with runners in scoring position and he made that phenomenal play.”
That catch was one of the most clutch plays I have ever witnessed.
Not just for how great the play was, but for what it meant.
Texas Tech was 26-30 last season. It was an underdog going into the Coral Gables Regional before it upset Miami.
The Red Raiders had not even made a regional since 2002.
Those days are over.
But, the program is not just on the rise.
It has arrived and it’s because of Conley and the effort he made to reach a ball that maybe no one else could have.
Because of his catch, the Red Raiders might just be in perfect position for a championship.