The Washington Times - May 14, 2011, 01:00AM

There are a lot of amazing plays made in the major leagues on a nightly basis.

Then there was what Roger Bernadina did in center field at Nationals Park Friday night. It stood in a class by itself.


“Greatest catch of all time,” said reliever Tyler Clippard, who watched from the bullpen as Bernadina sprinted, twisted, turned, flipped and held on tight. “Best catch I’ve ever seen.”

So just in case you haven’t seen it, or watched the replay upwards of 15 times, here’s what happened on the play that had everyone buzzing despite the Nationals’ 6-5 loss to the Marlins in the 11th inning.

The Nationals scratched and clawed their way back from a 3-0 deficit and tied things at four in the bottom of the fourth. But with Nationals-killer Gaby Sanchez ripping a one-out single to left field and Tom Gorzelanny then hitting Logan Morrison with two outs, Todd Coffey was summoned to face Marlins slugger Mike Stanton.

The 1-0 slider from Coffey connected with Mike Stanton’s bat at 85 mph. It came off it at what looked to be 185 mph.

“That thing had an extra gear,” said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. “I couldn’t believe he caught it.”

Bernadina broke back to his right, head turned over his shoulder, and ran about a dozen steps. The ball was a sure double, maybe more, with two men on and looked to have broken the tie the Nationals had fought their way to the previous inning.

But just as it was about to fall, Bernadina left his feet.

He leapt, glove oustretched, and when he felt the ball reach the webbing he closed his glove and held on tight. There it stayed, peeking out of Bernadina’s black glove like a pure white snowcone in summer. It stayed, even after Bernadina landed violently on the edge of the grass and his feet flipped over his head on the bounce.

Coffey pumped his fist in the air in triumph, saying later he was “just sitting there, backing up second, and just praying to God that he catches it.” Left fielder Laynce Nix, who tended to Bernadina as the outfielder remained on the ground for a few seconds to regain his bearings, gave him a congratulatory pat on the head.

Bernadina smiled.

What he’d just done seemed impossible. So how did he do it?

“I don’t know either,” he said with a laugh. “When that guy hit the ball, I said ‘(S–).’ Then I ran back and the only thing I could do is dive. It was the only play, actually.”

A standing ovation ensued from the 19,503 in attendance at Nationals Park, as did, most likely, hundreds of replays of the feat. There was, however, one person impressed but not unsurprised at what the center fielder accomplished.

“Unbelievable,” said shortstop Ian Desmond. “It’s like beating a dead horse for me. A few people asked me how excited I was to have him here the other day; This kid brings so much energy. He’s such a talented ballplayer. I’m pulling for him more than anybody out there. I definitely don’t think that will be the last spectacular catch we’ll see him make.”