Missouri’s ‘Christmas in April’ game leads to 9-1 victory over LSU

Brooke Wilmes closed the game with another game-winning hit, capping off the Tigers’ offensive rallies in the third and fifth innings.

Missouri softball got every item on their “Christmas in April” list: good defense for them, bad defense for their opponent, two home runs and RBIs, a stellar pitching performance and a strong win.

The Tigers defeated LSU 9-1 in five innings Friday night to take the series-opener over LSU in their traditional “Christmas in April” game.

Missouri’s first gift came in the bottom of the third inning, as the Tigers took advantage of a flurry of near-out errors and timely hits to jump ahead of LSU early.

The Tigers scored the majority of their runs in the third inning, taking advantage of some key hits and errors to produce four runs. After senior outfielder Brooke Wilmes’ double to right-center, freshman shortstop Jenna Laird and senior catcher Hatti Moore blooped singles just out of reach of the Bayou Bengals’ outfielders.

The inning seemed to be over after that, as senior outfielder Casidy Chaumont grounded to freshman shortstop Taylor Pleasants’ in the hole. It was a play she had made once before that inning, but she gifted the Tigers with a run with a poor throw past the third baseman and ricocheted off the Missouri dugout fencing and toward home.

Laird scored, Moore and Chaumont stood on second and third, and the inning spiraled out of control for LSU.

Later in the inning, freshman first baseman Riley Frizell’s pinch-hit single drove in two more runs to extend the Tiger lead to 6-1.

The first time through the lineup, junior starting pitcher Shelbi Sunseri tailored her pitching to the Tiger lineup. Wilmes rarely saw a pitch in the zone, and her aggressiveness worked against her. The patient Laird, on the other hand, never got ahead in the count and had work from behind for the entire at-bat.

Both hit weak ground ball outs to start their nights, and the Missouri offense seemed stifled by the Tigers in the first inning.

Senior outfielder Cayla Kessinger sparked Missouri’s offense early on with a two-run home run in the second inning. The Tigers rallied for four runs in the third, then ended the game in the fifth inning with two home runs.

Missouri coach Larissa Anderson made the most essential decision of the game to pull sophomore starting pitcher Jordan Weber after she struggled with control in the opening frame.

Following Weber’s shaky inning, sophomore southpaw Emma Nichols surrendered just one hit in four shutout innings. Beyond Pleasants’ solo shot in the first inning, LSU’s offense struggled to find its groove.

Their high octane, air raid offense resulted in a long series of flyouts and pop-outs that put very little pressure on the Missouri defense to make plays. In the last three innings, LSU produced no offensive gains, going 0-10 with three hard-hit line drives and one batter reaching on an error.

Nichols’ control of the zone as well as her ability to mix her pitches kept LSU from ever getting multiple runners on base and contained them to their flyball and line-drive outs.

In the fifth inning, after Pleasants’ second error of the night and a few other baserunners, the Tigers loaded the bases for Wilmes.

Just over two weeks before, Wilmes had struck a game-winning grand slam to seal the Tigers’ five-inning victory over Western Illinois. On Friday night, Wilmes struck a double to drive in two runs for her second such game-winning hit, ending the Tigers’ chaotic holiday-themed evening beneath the lights.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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