TYLER -- Canton was on cloud nine Thursday after pulling the upset in a one-game, Class 4A bi-district playoff series, but the team quickly went on the defensive when its fourth-place finish in District 14-4A got brought up.

The way the Eagles view it, they're the best fourth-seed in the state. And that's a hard point to argue.

Canton defeated Athens -- the No. 9 team in the final Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association's 4A poll -- by a score of 6-3 at Mike Carter Field and advanced to the area round.

"This is the first time we've been to the playoffs in four years," winning shortstop Cole Sullivan said. "As a senior, it's really sweet. We knew we could do it. Coach has been telling us we're the best team in our district. We really gave it to them today."

Hunter Moore earned the complete game win against Athens. He threw 117 pitches, struck out seven, walked two and gave up three earned runs. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

The Eagles (10-7) cruised into their defensive portion of the sixth inning. They loaded the bases in the first to force opposing starting pitcher Travis Takata to labor, put four runs on the board in the second frame and added another score in the fourth.

The Hornets (20-6), District 13-4A's champion, weren't about to just lay down to a Canton squad that opened district play with an 0-5 record though.

Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Athens mounted its comeback attempt.

Brandon Boyd caught the team's first real break with a fielding error at first base, and a second error against the right fielder helped him to a quasi-leadoff triple. Takata singled through the left gap three pitches later on an 0-2 count to put the Hornets within two runs.

Athens then loaded the bases on three pitches.

Canton starting pitcher Hunter Moore responded with a strikeout on his 11th throw of the frame and Sullivan saved the day with a scoop in the dirt to set up a 6-4-3, inning-ending double play.

Center fielder Gus Brewer added an insurance run in the top of the seventh, a bases-loaded liner through the left gap to plate Ryan Cosey.

The Hornets put a man on second base with two outs in the final frame, but Sullivan reached for a hard chopper and threw on a rope to first base for the game's final out.

"It was a great group effort," Eagles skipper Jeff Priest said. "It really was. I am so proud of them. The seniors really needed that. We have four seniors in Grady Priest, Chandler Eiland, Cole Sullivan and Ryan Casey. We've been so close the last few years, with the exception to last year, and beaten on tiebreakers. We got over the hump tonight."

Chandler Eiland beats Athens third baseman Landon Bynum's tag to cap off a two-RBI triple in the top of the second inning. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Right fielder Kyle Farrell doubled to open the second inning and catcher John Adams advanced him to third base. Brewer batted into a double play, but it was enough to get Farrell home for the first run.

Back at the top of the order, Sullivan drew a two-out walk and Grady Priest moved him to third base.

Athens committed an error, its first of four in the game, trying to catch Grady Priest's steal attempt and allowed Sullivan the plate.

Eiland, a Louisiana-Monroe quarterback signee, chased Takata from the mound with a hit into right-center field for a two-RBI triple.

Takata shifted to shortstop and continued a 3-for-3 offensive night. The senior played a hand in all three Hornets runs scored.

Canton got its fifth run in the top fourth. Moore attempted to steal second base, Athens committed a throwing error and Sullivan charged in from third base.

Takata broke up Moore's shutout in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI base hit. Third baseman Landon Bynum cut Canton's lead to 5-2, a bouncing ball over Sullivan.

Moore went the distance on the rubber. He struck out seven batters, walked two and surrendered three earned runs.

Jack Amheiser pitched 5 1/3 innings in relief for the Hornets, striking out six batters and walking six along the way.

Canton will play the winner of the Atlanta and Bullard best-of-three playoff set in the area round. That series gets underway today at Longview High School and will be settled Saturday.

"We knew their ranking, but it wasn't the only thing on our mind," Moore said. "We were thinking we'd play our game, make some hits, make the routine plays and that we'd be fine."

The Canton Eagles celebrate their one-game playoff win against No. 9 Athens at Mike Carter Field. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Canton 6, No. 9 Athens 3

Class 4A Bi-District Playoff Game
At Mike Carter Field

Canton            040    100   1    --     6    7   2
Athens             000    201   0    --     3   6    4

Pitchers and catchers
  • Canton: Hunter Moore and John Adams
  • Athens: Travis Takata, Jack Amheiser (2) and Brandon Boyd

WP -- Moore
LP -- Takata

Doubles
  • Canton: Kyle Farrell
  • Athens: Boyd

 

Triples
  • Canton: Chandler Eiland