LSU softball eliminated from SEC tournament after being unable to solve Missouri’s Webber

LSU softball coach Beth Torina visits with catcher Morgan Cummins (26), pitcher Ali Kilponen (2) and her infield (from left) Amanda Doyle, Taylor Pleasants, Taylor Tidwell and Raeleen Gutierrez during Thursday's quarterfinal game in the SEC tournament against Missouri in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The last time LSU’s softball team got a look at Missouri starting pitcher Jordan Webber, it wasn’t for very long.

The Tigers scored a run on a hit off Webber who was lifted after the first inning in the April 9th game which was the only game Missouri won in the three-game series.

With a berth to the SEC tournament semifinals on the line, Webber provided a little more staying power and pitched a complete-game, two-hit gem to help fourth-seeded Missouri eliminate fifth-seeded LSU, 4-1, Thursday at Rhodes Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

“I wasn’t 100% sure if she was hurt that weekend or what it was,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “We did have a lot of success in that first inning, but I wasn’t 100% sure she was healthy.”

Webber (10-5) pitched her second complete game of the season and third of her career, going more than six innings for the first time this season on a season-high 121 pitches. The sophomore right-hander no-hit LSU for 4.2 innings and wound up allowing two hits, three walks and struck out four.

LSU (32-19) must now turn its attention to the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday where the Tigers will learn their postseason destination when the 64-team field and 16 host sites are announced at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.

The Tigers, who were named among the NCAA’s 20 predetermined host sites, feature the nation’s No. 2 strength of schedule with 11 wins over top 25 teams and a No. 5 RPI.

“I still think we’ve done enough to host. I think we’re really solid in the top 16,” Torina said. “I think we were trying to push for that top eight. It’s going to be tough with Missouri trying to push for the same thing.

“Our team’s put forth a strong season and has a great resume. We have a lot of top 25 wins; we have an extremely tough strength of schedule. We will have a great resume we will put forth.”

Missouri (38-14), which won its first game in the SEC tournament since 2015, advanced beyond the quarterfinal round for only the second time in program history and meets top-seeded Florida in Friday’s semifinal round.

Missouri enjoyed a reversal of fortunes against LSU starter Ali Kilponen (14-7) who defeated Mizzou in both ends of an April 11th road doubleheader to help her team take that series.

Kilponen allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits in 5.2 innings, walked five and struck out four in a 137-pitch effort. After Missouri added its fourth run in the sixth, Shelbi Sunseri came on to get the final out of the inning.

“I thought our defense kept us in it,” Torina said “I thought we had a chance. I thought Ali competed on the mound. I thought they gave us a chance. We just didn’t get it done.”

Missouri scored an unearned run in the first inning and extended its lead to 3-0 with two runs in the fourth inning.

Designated player Cayla Kessinger homered to lead off the inning, the team’s ninth home run in their last 10 games, and lead-off batter Brooke Wilmes (3-for-4) drove in a run with a single into center field.

LSU threatened against Webber in the second when Clark and Raeleen Gutierrez each drew one-out walks, but Sunseri struck out and Morgan Cummins grounded out.

The Tigers finally broke through against Webber to break up her no-hitter and shutout in the fifth.

Cummins got just enough of an inside pitch that dropped in behind the pitcher’s circle for an infield single and pinch-runner Anna Jones scored all the way from first on a triple from pinch-hitter Ali Newland to make it 3-1.

Webber came back to strike out Aliyah Andrews to end the inning. It was the fourth time this season the Tigers were limited to two hits in a game.

The Tigers got a runner in scoring position in the sixth when Ciara Briggs walked and was sacrificed to second by Amanda Doyle, but Georgia Clark bounced out to second base.

Missouri extended its lead in the bottom of the inning with a run-scoring single from Wilmes down the left-field line. They went on to load the bases against Kilponen but Sunseri came on in relief to get the final out on a fly ball out to Andrews in center.

“It’s frustrating when you have talented players and seeing them not succeed,” Torina said. “It’s definitely frustrating that we couldn’t make an adjustment offensively. Jordan Webber gets some credit. She threw a good game against us, but it would have been nice to see us make some adjustments with the offense and put a little more pressure on them at times.”

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