MESQUITE -- Emanuel Hernandez only allowed a seven-pitch walk in the fifth and a nine-pitch base hit in the sixth. It wasn't a shabby playoff debut.

Athens rolled to a 4-0 victory Thursday against Paris in Game 1 of the two teams' best-of-three series at Mesquite's J.J. Tillery Field in large part due to three mistakes for three runs. But even if the Hornets had only been awarded the one run they actually created from start to finish, Hernandez's near miss with perfection was more than enough.

"It feels good just helping my team win," the winning pitcher said. "We did what Coach was talking about when we did our game plan. Just throwing strikes and letting our defense do the rest."

Hornets teammates begin to give Emanuel Hernandez space in the dugout during his perfect game bid.

Hernandez figured he'd need a strong outing. Paris starter Phillip Sikes threw a one-hitter and struck out 14 batters in his last appearance, a 4-0 victory versus Gilmer last week in Game 1 of a bi-district round sweep.

Athens (21-6) got to Sikes early in the contest. Landon Bynum lined through the middle of the infield as the Hornets' third batter of the game. A fielding error on a long fly ball into Tillery Field's expansive foul territory two pitches later allowed Bynum to move from first base to home, the game-winning run.

Sikes got dinged for seven more hits and endured two more errors from his defense toward a complete game loss on 104 pitches.

Through hits, errors and one walk, each player in Athens' batting order reached base safely at least once. Designated hitter Luis Valdez batted 2 for 3 during the game and Cameron Woodward went 2 for 4.

Paris (19-8), contrarily, pressed through the game. Hernandez got through four innings on 36 pitches, including three straight eight-pitch frames.

Zack Norris broke up the perfect game buildup through 4 1/3 innings with a one-out walk. Athens' hurler, despite beginning to show signs of fatigue, responded for two strikeouts in nine pitches.

Cody Conway slapped a leadoff hit to shallow left field in the sixth to break up the no-hitter. Bynum started a 5-4-3 double play from third base the next at-bat.

The next hitter popped up to end the inning.

Hernandez closed the game for himself with the last of five perfect frames. He went the distance in 87 throws.

While Athens took a 1-0 series advantage, it moved to 2-0 against Paris this season. The clubs battled to a 2-1 decision during non-district play.

"That's not surprising, to us, what he did tonight," Hornets head coach Dallas Robertson said. "He's always had that kind of stuff, and he's done it this year. He did the same thing to Paris earlier this year at our place. Pitched just like that. But I've never seen him as focused as he was tonight. I'm very proud of that. I'm proud of him."

The ace is out of the way for the Hornets, but their own No. 1 is still fully available.

Athens shortstop Cameron Woodard reaches base safely on an infield hit in the second inning. He batted 2 for 4 in the contest.

Brandon Boyd will take Tillery Field's bump when the series resumes at 1 p.m. Saturday for Game 2. He pitched a complete game in last week's 6-1 win over Van in a one-game playoff series.

Boyd, who spent Thursday as Hernandez's catcher, helped the Hornets to a 2-0 advantage in the second inning. His ground ball single to center field was converted into a quasi triple by a fielding error. Valdez got Boyd home by dropping one just beyond the charging left fielder's reach.

Paden Quade's shot to deep left field in the fifth allowed Woodard to get home for a 3-0 lead. Woodard hit up the middle gap to start the inning.

Paris' third fielding error extended a sixth inning that had already yielded the final run. Valdez reached home from second base on a wild pitch that deflected off the catcher's leg guard and into his own dugout.

"This is a series," Robertson said. "We've got to win one more. That was very big though to get the win there."

Athens head coach Dallas Robertson (24) waves in Landon Bynum (4) in the first inning. Bynum's run off a fielding error held up at the winning run.

Athens 4, Paris 0

Class 4A Area Round Playoffs, Game 1
At Tillery Field, Mesquite

Paris                 000    000    0    --   0   1  3
Athens              011    030    0    --    4   8   0

Pitchers and catchers
  • Paris: Phillip Sikes and Tyler Sanders
  • Athens: Manuel Hernandez and Brandon Boyd
  • WP -- Hernandez
  • LP -- Sikes