Late errors plague Missouri softball in loss to Illinois

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Missouri softball coach Larissa Anderson entered Wednesday with a 2-0 record against Illinois as head coach of the Tigers, sweeping the Fighting Illini in last season’s doubleheader.

However, Illinois (11-11, 0-0 Big Ten) took advantage of timely errors to defeat No. 23 Missouri (19-7, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) 2-1 Wednesday. The game was held at Lindenwood University in St. Charles.

Both teams struggled to put anything together offensively, each notching only one inning with multiple hits. The Tigers were able to find success in other ways, including the base on balls. Missouri drew five walks compared to Illinois’ zero. However, the Tigers struggled to drive those runners in, leaving 10 runners on base total.

Jordan Weber took the circle for the Missouri and only allowed three hits in her four innings pitched. The Tigers gave Weber some run support in the third inning with a Cayla Kessinger RBI double. With the double, Kessinger extended her hitting streak to 15 games, the longest of her career and tied for the fourth longest in program history. Kessinger went 2-for-4 on the day.

Brooke Wilmes, who continues to be one of toughest batters to get out in the nation, extended her on-base streak to 20 games. Wilmes went 3-for-4 at the plate and scored the Tigers‘ lone run. She also added to her own hitting streak, making it eight straight games with a hit.

Missouri struggled late defensively, which allowed Illinois to get back in the game. Emma Nichols relieved Weber in the fifth inning, inheriting a runner on second base. The Fighting Illini tied the game after a wild pitch by Nichols and a subsequent throwing error by the third baseman brought in a run.

Illinois then took the lead the next inning. Miranda Gallardo singled to advance a runner to third, but the ball was bobbled at first and allowed the runner to cross home plate.

Down one entering the final inning, the Tigers faced a familiar scenario. In eight of Missouri’s 18 wins this season, it has scored the go-ahead run in the final two innings. Missouri once again showed poise, getting two runners in scoring position. However, the Tigers were unable to bring them home, striking out twice to end the game. Missouri finished with seven strikeouts, while Illinois only had one.

The Tigers will return to action for SEC play this weekend as they begin their three game series against Auburn at 4 p.m. Saturday at Jane B. Moore Field in Auburn, Alabama. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network+.

The SEC announced Wednesday evening that all games, effective Thursday, will be conducted with only essential staff, limited family and credentialed media in attendance through March 30 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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