MADISON — Hortonville and Kimberly took different paths to wins Thursday at the Division 1 state softball tournament.
Hortonville plated three runs in the third inning to grab control en route to a 5-1 quarterfinal win over Verona Area, while the Papermakers played catch-up and then passed Stevens Point in a 6-4 win at Goodman Diamond on Thursday afternoon.
Hortonville (23-4) advances to Friday’s 6 p.m. semifinal game against defending state champ Westosha Central, while Kimberly follows against Germantown.
Scoreless in the third Hortonville took advanatge of an error by Verona that led to three unearned runs. Mistakes are magnified in a state tournament and this one was.
“We always talked about if there’s an opening hopefully we can take advantage of a mistake,” Hortonville coach Bob Pethke said. “We had a little bit of an opening in that one inning where we scored three runs. Fortunately, things bounced our way.”
Meanwhile, sophomore pitcher Sammi Sullivan was solid in the circle, scattering four hits, while striking out two and walking two.
“It was just hitting my spots and trusting my coach and calling what he wanted me to pitch,” Sullivan said.
She said her job was made easier when she was given a 3-0 lead.
“It’s one to have your defense, but to have your offense balance that out it feels really good,” Sullivan said.
As for the Papermakers (25-3), the only team to beat them this season was Kaukauna, three times. Stevens Point appeared on its way to joining Kaukauna on that list, leading 3-1 after three inings.
However, the Papermakers chipped away and scored five runs in the last four innings.
“Our girls did an awesome job fighting back,” Kimberly coach Bill Weyers said. “It could’ve went either way; chipped away, chipped away and got it done.”
Key in the rally was the Papermakers’ bottom of the order. Dani Dobinski, Alyssa Sikora, Summer Zachow and Madi Surprise, the 6-9 batters, accounted for five RBIs and had four of the team’s 10 hits.
Sikora had the biggest hit, a two-run single as she won the battle of the freshmen, getting the key hit off freshman pitcher Aubrey Drohner. The two runs gave Kimberly a 4-3 lead.
“We’ve been focusing on putting the ball in play,” Weyers said. “They made things happen. Sometimes you have to go up there and see it and hit it and that’s what they did.”
Weyers said down 3-1 there was no panic, it was just too early after three innings.
“We need to settle down and we’ll be OK,” Weyers said. “I thought (pitcher) Megan (Kleist) did a great job and we had some clutch hits.”
Hortonville and Kimberly are one win away from meeting each other in the state title game Saturday. Ironically, this will be a conference game next year when Hortonville moves from the Bay Conference to the Fox Valley Association.
Both teams are excited about their semifinal games.
“We’re playing our best,” Sullivan said. “We just keep going. We’re doing really well.”
“I’m very excited for Friday,” said Kimberly right fielder Sara Rosenow.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay