Missouri softball shut down by LSU’s Kilponen as Tigers lose weekend series

The Tigers led briefly in both games, but the visiting pitching was too consistent down the stretch and Missouri had no answers.

LSU pitcher Ali Kilponen wasn’t supposed to pitch nearly two complete games on Sunday, but the Baton Rouge Tigers were certainly glad she did.

Missouri softball had no answers for the sophomore, who gave up just two earned runs off of seven hits in 13 innings while striking out 15 batters. The Tigers dropped both legs of the doubleheader, 4-2 in the opener and 12-5 in the finale.

“She threw an unbelievable game,” Missouri coach Larissa Anderson said of Kilponen. “I thought she was outstanding, kept us off-balance with the change-up, and we didn't really make great adjustments."

Kilponen started game one as planned. She struck out eight Missouri batters and gave up four hits and two runs, but had to throw 131 pitches to get the job done. No Missouri hitter recorded more than one hit, and LSU’s offense did enough to earn the win.

That’s not to say Missouri didn’t have the chances. In the bottom of the sixth, down 4-2, the Tigers worked the count to force three walks and loaded the bases with two outs. But freshman first baseman Riley Fritzell, who was 0-2 entering the at-bat, struck out to end the inning.

Then, in the final frame, Missouri got the tying run on base with two outs. The winning run, senior catcher Hatti Moore — who was 1-2 with an RBI — lined out to left field to end the game.

In game two, sophomore pitcher Shelby Wickersham came in to start for the visiting Tigers. She struggled out of the gate, allowing Missouri’s first three batters to reach base before she could record an out. Following the first out, four more Missouri players reached base and Wickersham exited having given up five runs on four hits in 0.1 innings.

Kilponen trotted back out to the circle in relief. Though there was about a 100-minute span between her last pitch in game one and her first in game two, she picked up right where she left off and shut down the Missouri lineup. The Tigers only managed three hits against her over the next 5.2 innings. It didn’t help that LSU’s offense hit the cover off the ball the rest of the game, and the visitors cruised to a comfortable win.

Missouri’s pitching staff by no means had a good outing in game two. Up 5-2 in the fourth, sophomore pitcher Emma Nichols faced a two-out, two-on situation with the chance to get out of the inning unscathed and with a sizable lead. She got behind in the count and left a pitch up in the zone, which shortstop Taylor Pleasants ripped into right field to bring in two runs.

“Our pitching today, they just didn't compete," coach Larissa Anderson said. "They gotta compete and they gotta be able to make that pitch. We've gotta come in and be able to shut some offenses down and keep them off-balance.”

Missouri still led, but LSU had all the momentum for the rest of the game and the Tigers couldn’t turn the tide.

“It's deep into the season, [the pitching staff has] had a lot of experience,” Anderson said. “And they have to be able to realize what the other team is trying to do, and they can't throw the ball in the same spot expecting to get the same result all the time."

Kilponen threw 231 pitches on the day and without a doubt earned her rest.

Missouri drops to 29-9 (7-5 SEC). The Tigers host Kansas on Tuesday before getting back to SEC play with a weekend series against Mississippi State in Columbia that starts on Friday.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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