Missouri softball players cheer for their teammates from the dugout (copy)

Missouri softball players cheer from the dugout while freshman Jenna Laird and senior Brooke Wilmes round the bases after a home run April 17 at the Mizzou Softball Stadium in Columbia. Missouri will start the SEC tournament against LSU on Thursday afternoon.

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The SEC tournament hasn’t been kind to Missouri softball over the years. Although the Tigers reached the championship game in their first year in the conference in 2013, they have only managed a single win since.

In order to reverse that trend in the 2021 edition of the tournament, Missouri will need to defeat fifth-seeded LSU. The two are set to meet for the fourth time this season Thursday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

As the fourth seed, Missouri has its highest placement since the 2014 season. The Tigers held the third seed that year and saw themselves upset by the first opponent they faced. That opponent? LSU.

MU was again defeated by LSU in the 2017 tournament, putting the tourney record against the school at 0-2. While it is a small sample size for the Tigers, history is against them, and not just from past seasons.

This season also saw Missouri drop games to LSU. MU lost the early-April series 2-1, the final game of which saw LSU put up 12 runs, the most MU gave up in a single game this season. The pitching also poses a major problem.

Shelbi Sunseri started the previous round against South Carolina on Wednesday going 5⅔ innings, so Missouri can expect to face Ali Kilponen. Kilponen pitched nearly the entirety of the final two games of the series with Missouri this season, going 13⅔ innings and giving up only two runs.

In spite of that history, both recent and older, Missouri comes into this game in a strong position.

That performance from Kilponen seemed to bleed over into MU’s next game against Kansas, sapping the confidence out of the high-flying team. It threatened to derail its season with such a short time left and some very difficult opponents still to play.

But it didn’t.

Missouri rallied over the final weeks, sweeping a Mississippi State team that had begun to hit its stride, and taking road series over Arkansas and Tennessee. The Tigers also led for the vast majority of their series against Florida, despite losing two games.

MU's place as one of the top offenses in the conference became solidified, despite taking on three of the top pitching teams in the SEC. Missouri comes into its final crack at LSU with confidence riding high and with its bats ready to make some noise.

This article originally ran on columbiamissourian.com.

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