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NEW HAMPTON – The game of softball is often like a maze with many twists and turns.

That was exactly the case on Wednesday night during the Class 1A, Region 7 quarterfinal between Starmont and Janesville. But, it was the Stars that hung on for the 12-7 victory over the Wildcats, advancing to Friday’s semifinal against Edgewood-Colesburg.

Janesville head coach Shelly Sorensen said her team put up a fight against Starmont, no matter what the scoreboard showed.

“Obviously, the pitching struggled,” Sorensen said. “Once it started raining, we just couldn’t find it consistently after that. We gave up a lot of runs that one inning. I’m proud that we did fight back and at least made it a game for a little while there. We gave ourselves the opportunity, but we just couldn’t get enough big hits with those runners on. That might’ve been the difference. I know that the effort was there, but the performance wasn’t there all around. That’s part of the game.”

The Wildcats took a 3-0 advantage in the bottom of the first inning, as Pyper McCarville led off with a single, made it to second on the sacrifice bunt by Naomi Hovenga and stole third base. Grace Hovenga hit a single, which brought in Pyper McCarville. Grace Hovenga stole second base and advanced to third on the Bailey Hoff single. After the Stars committed an error, Grace Hovenga scored, and Hoff made it to third. Julia Meister hit a triple that scored Hoff, giving the Wildcats an early 3-0 lead over Starmont with one inning down.

However, Starmont forcefully answered in the top of the second inning, as they brought eight runs across the plate. Madilyn Vaske was walked and made it to second base on the sacrifice bunt by Sydney Baumgartner. Regan Parkin was walked and Vaske advanced to third on a wild pitch. Sydnee Becker hit a single that scored Vaske and put Parkin at third base, who later scored on a wild pitch. Becker got to third after two wild pitches, but was called out on the throw from Grace Hovenga to Hope Hovenga at third base. Katie Berry got on base by a fielder’s choice and made it to second on a wild pitch. Isabel Johanns was hit by pitch and both runners advanced one base on the Hayley Goedken walk. Emily Schuchmacher then hit a double, which allowed Berry and Johanns to score and left Goedken at third base, but she later scored on a wild pitch. Schuchmacher made it to third by a wild pitch and scored on a Wildcat error. Regan Jannsen was walked and made it to second on Vaske’s walk, got to third on a wild pitch and also scored on a Wildcat error. Vaske was able to score on a wild pitch, which made the score 8-3, Starmont after two innings.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Janesville attempted to spark a rally, as they brought in three runs, making it 8-6. Naomi Hovenga reached base on an error by the Stars, got to second on Grace Hovenga’s walk and stole second. Another Starmont error would allow Naomi Hovenga to score and hold Grace Hovenga at third. Bailey Hoff bunted the ball and beat out the throw to first base. Chloe Kiene hit a deep sacrifice fly that allowed Grace Hovenga to score, after tagging up at third base. Hoff was able to make it to second on the play, after the Stars made their third error of the frame. After a single by Meister, Hoff later scored on the sacrifice fly by Cloey McCarville.

During the top of the sixth frame, the Stars got one run back, as Schuchmacher drew the walk and made it to third, after two-consecutive wild pitches. Jannsen also made it on base with a walk, while Vaske was hit by pitch, which loaded up the bases. Baumgartner drew another walk, which scored Schuchmacher and made it 9-6, Stars.

Janesville answered with one run in the bottom of the sixth, as Pyper McCarville reached first base on a Starmont error, stole second and advanced to third by fielder’s choice. Pyper McCarville was able to score on a Star error, which was committed by Goedken, the pitcher. After six complete innings, Starmont led Janesville, 9-7.

In the top half of the seventh, Starmont’s Johanns earned the walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Goedken then hit a single and stole second, which allowed Johanns to advance to third base. Jannsen single’s single scored Johanns and left Goedken at third, but she scored on a Wildcat error. Schuchmacher also got on base by a walk, made it to second on Jannsen’s single and scored on the sacrifice fly by Vaske.

The Wildcats then went three up, three down in the bottom of the seventh, giving Starmont the 12-7 victory.

Hoff pitched all seven innings for Janesville, gave up 12 runs, walked 12 and struck out three.

While the going got tough for Hoff in the circle, Sorensen was still quite proud of her starting hurler.

“That’s a tough spot to be in, since things weren’t clicking for her,” Sorensen said. “She just couldn’t find her rhythm all the time tonight. She hung in there for us and battled the best that she could.”

Offensively, Hoff and Meister led the Wildcats, as they each went 3-4 in the batter’s box. Meister, Grace Hovenga, Kiene and Cloey McCarville each tallied one RBI.

The Wildcats send out Grace Hovenga as their lone senior. Sorensen said this season was a challenging one for Janesville, but it also gave her young players a great amount of experience to use in future seasons of Wildcat softball.

“It was up and down all year long,” Sorensen said. “Overall, it was a really good season. We finished second in the conference on the north side, and we gained a lot of experience. We have a lot of young players out there, and we graduate just one. We have a lot of experience coming back for us next year.”