COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri softball team had no answer for Ali Kilponen and her overpowering right arm, as Kilponen shut down the Tigers' offense and helped No. 15 LSU take the series on the road with a pair of wins Sunday, 4-2 in the opener and 8-5 in the finale.
No. 19 Missouri, now 29-9 and 7-5 in the Southeastern Conference, run-ruled LSU 9-1 in five innings in the opener Friday night, clubbing 10 hits, five for extra bases as LSU's staff — without Kilponen — struggled.
But Kilponen pitched a complete-game four-hitter in the opener as the starter Sunday, striking out eight on 131 pitches. Then after a 75-minute break between games, Missouri tagged LSU's Shelby Wickersham for five runs in the first inning of Game 2 and Kilponen entered with one out and once again quieted the Tigers' bats. She allowed three hits in 6 innings, striking out seven and raising her total pitch count on the day to 231.
Her line on the day: 13 innings pitched, seven hits, two earned runs allowed and 15 strikeouts.
"We tried. We didn't," Missouri coach Larissa Anderson said of her team making adjustments against Kilponen. "Overall I thought it was pretty ugly. She threw an unbelievable game, I thought she was outstanding, kept us off-balance with the change-up, and we didn't really make great adjustments."
The Tigers took a 5-1 lead into the top of the second inning in Game 2, but gave up 11 unanswered runs as LSU took the series.
"Our pitching today, they just didn't compete," 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. And I'm not using the excuse that they're young, because they have to learn. It's deep into the season, they've had a lot of experience. 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."
Brooke Wilmes led off the home first of Game 1 with a double, moved up on a wild pitch and Hatti Moore brought her in with a single up the middle. But between the end of the first inning and Kim Wert's leadoff homer to start the fourth — her 12th this season — Kilponen set down seven straight.
Missouri drew three walks in the sixth to load the bases with two out after LSU left fielder Ciara Briggs made an impressive diving catch to rob Jenna Laird of a leadoff single and end her hitting streak at nine games. But Kilponen struck out Riley Frizell swinging to end that threat, then got Hatti Moore to fly out to left after Kendyll Bailey singled and Laird drew a walk in the bottom of the seventh.
Sunday's first game was just the third time all season the Tigers had been held to four or fewer hits, after managing five total in two games against No. 1 Oklahoma on March 6 and 7.
"When you're facing a pitcher like that, sometimes you have to either split the plate in half or eliminate a pitch," Anderson said. "And we continued to try to hit every pitch, and we're not going to be very successful doing that when someone's really throwing as well as she is."
Sophie Dandola pitched well for Missouri as the starter, allowing five hits and two earned runs while striking out one.
But LSU took advantage of a few costly Missouri mistakes in the third inning to take the lead for good after Georgia Clark crushed a homer to the top of the berm in left in the second to tie the game at 1.
With one away, Briggs laid down a bunt and Moore had time to beat her to first with the throw but slipped on the infield dirt and the ball went wide, advancing Briggs to second. She moved up on a passed ball, then with the infield playing in against slapper Aliyah Andrews, she hit a fly ball to the lip of the grass behind short. Left fielder Casidy Chaumont charged in and laid out for the ball, but it popped out of her glove as she hit the ground as Andrews cruised into second. and Briggs stayed put.
Danieca Coffey singled Briggs in, then third baseman Kim Wert tried to come home on a fielder's choice but her throw was high as Andrews slid in safely. Clark added a sac fly to give LSU the 4-1 advantage that would hold.
Laurin Krings entered in the fifth and threw three one-hit innings, walking one and striking out four.
In the second game, LSU scored first after loading the bases with one out, as Missouri tried to turn a 4-2-3 double play. Moore's throw up the line was off, allowing a runner to score from second.
The Tigers answered with five runs in the bottom of the inning on four hits and two LSU errors. Wilmes singled, Laird reached on an error and Moore singled to tie the game, Wert's sacrifice fly gave Missouri the lead, and after Casidy Chaumont reached on an error and Cayla Kessinger walked, Riley Frizell hit an RBI single and Bailey hit a 2-run double to make it 5-1.
That's when LSU made the pitching change back to Kilponen and Missouri couldn't get anything going from there. LSU's bats stayed hot, scoring. in every inning except the third.
Missouri hosts Kansas at 4 p.m. Tuesday, then play their second-straight home SEC series next weekend against Mississippi State.