Kilponen kills MU offense as LSU sweeps Sunday doubleheader

Missouri’s Brooke Wilmes bats during the Tigers’ second game of a doubleheader against LSU on Sunday in Columbia. Wilmes made her 200th hit playing for MU in the sixth inning, becoming the 14th softball player at MU to achieve the accolade.

Ben Miglore

LSU needed 42 outs to complete the two games of Sunday’s doubleheader against Missouri. For all but one of them, it needed just a single pitcher.

Ali Kilponen was a one-woman wrecking crew as LSU pulled off the sweep to take the series 2-1.

LSU took advantage of a sloppy third inning in a 4-2 win over MU in Game 1. The offense initially clicked back into gear for the home Tigers in the second game, but faltered after Kilponen returned as LSU came from behind to win 12-5.

In a game where both pitching staffs threw, a single mistake can shift the balance of the game and Missouri made several.

Catcher Hatti Moore committed the first, trying to get Ciara Briggs at first base after her well-placed bunt in the top of the second. Moore’s throw was off-line and she was charged with an error. Moore appeared to injure her ankle on the play, something that nagged her the rest of the day.

Aliyah Andrews got an infield double on some miscommunication from MU to set up the rest of a problematic inning. After a passed ball and a single scored Andrews, a fielder’s choice that should have resulted in an out at home went off Moore’s glove, letting the second run of the inning score. A sac-fly scored the third after the LSU runner looked to have left third base early but was declared safe by the umpire, making the score 4-1.

The collective team miscues — at the plate, in the field and in the circle — were something Missouri coach Larissa Anderson said had to do with a lack of aggressiveness.

“I was really disappointed in our defense,” Anderson said. “We pride ourselves on our defense and we didn’t come through.”

Kim Wert got one back on her twelfth homer of the season, a solo shot to center. Despite threatening on multiple occasions, Missouri would get nothing else.

Sophie Dandola played one more inning, finishing her second start of the season with four innings, giving up five hits and four runs, two of them earned. Laurin Krings took over, striking out four and shutting LSU out over the final three innings.

Kilponen went the distance in Game 1 and didn’t get long to rest. Game 2 starter Shelby Wickersham didn’t make it out of the first inning, forcing Kilponen back in almost immediately.

With the help of some errors from LSU, Missouri put up five runs before recording the second out. That dragged Kilponen back into action. Despite throwing 134 pitches in the first game, she showed no signs of fatigue as she pitched 6⅔ in the second round. Kilponen finished the day with 13⅔ innings, giving up seven hits and just two runs with 15 strikeouts and walking six.

“I thought we worked the count, and we got some really good hitters counts,” Anderson said, “but we didn’t capitalize and we didn’t really square up balls we needed to square up.”

Almost lost in the fantastic pitching performance from Kilponen was a dominant offensive showing from LSU in the second game. It gathered 18 hits in the 12-5 victory, including three homers. Andrews showed out all day, going 7 for 9 over both games with a pair of RBI and scoring two herself while stealing a couple bases. Briggs and Taylor Pleasants were the other standouts, each collecting three hits in the second contest with Pleasants hitting one of the homers.

“Our pitching today, they just didn’t compete,” Anderson said of the drop in performance from Friday’s 9-1 win, “They gotta compete. They gotta be able to make that big pitch.”

Brooke Wilmes had three hits, the most of any MU player on the day. That included her 200th career hit, two doubles, moving her into a tie for third all-time in that category with Mary Babb at 51. Wilmes now sits five back of Micaela Minner for the all-time lead, a record she’ll try to creep closer to when Kansas comes to town this week.