To get its first Southeastern Conference Tournament win since 2015, Missouri softball relied on a couple of other W's it had at its disposal, as Brooke Wilmes and Jordan Weber were the driving forces behind the Tigers’ quarterfinal victory.
Behind those two, Missouri took care of an LSU squad that’s given MU some issues in the past. The 4-1 win Thursday earned Missouri a semifinal date with No. 1 seed Florida on Friday afternoon.
Missouri’s triumph this season comes after a far-from-successful history against the LSU. Missouri has defeated the Tigers from Baton Rouge only once in postseason play, in the 2012 NCAA Super Regional, in a series MU ultimately lost 2-1. In the SEC tourney, Missouri has been knocked out twice in its opening games by LSU. In the all-time series between the two, MU was 9-16 entering Thursday’s game, including a series loss earlier this season.
But Thursday, history did not repeat itself.
Weber was dominant, getting her first real chance to see the LSU hitters this season. She started the first game of their early April series but was pulled after an inning. This time around, she went the distance.
Weber finished the game giving up two hits and a run. She drew the LSU bats into a number of flyouts, preventing the speed of the lineup from becoming a factor. Many of those went to left, where Casidy Chaumont met every ball that came her way. The All-Defensive Teamer tacked on a couple diving catches to add to an impressive résumé in left this season.
As for the other W in Missouri’s lineup, Wilmes fueled the offense. She went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI, helping lead the team to an eight-hit day. All of those hits came against LSU starter Ali Kilponen. The total was good for one more than MU had managed off her in nearly two complete games in the regular season.
The key moment for Missouri came in the bottom of the fourth. Cayla Kessinger led off the inning with a solo homer to right-center field. That gave Missouri a 2-0 lead and started to pile pressure on Kilponen after she had worked out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam the previous inning.
Emma Raabe walked, and pinch-runner Imani Myint moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Wilmes came up two batters later with her still there and, after going down 0-2, put a single up the middle out of the reach of a diving Taylor Tidwell to drive in Myint. That run pushed the lead to 3-0 and took some of the pressure off Weber, allowing her to pitch her game and not worry about having to be perfect.
The next test will come Friday against a Florida team that came from behind late to win twice when the two met for a three-game series in Columbia.