Twin Lakes senior Kaylee LaOrange’s offensive contributions this season have consisted of bunts and small ball from the No. 9 position in the batting order.
But recently, including Thursday’s Class 3A sectional title game against Peru, the outfielder has stepped up her production.
LaOrange collected two hits and the bottom of the order delivered key hits as the Indians repeated as sectional champions with a 4-2 victory. Twin Lakes advances to Tuesday’s regional against South Bend St. Joseph.
“My bat just came alive,” LaOrange said.
She singled home the game’s first run in the bottom of the second, the start of a three-run inning for the Indians (21-7). It’s a lead Twin Lakes didn’t relinquish, thanks to solid pitching from Chloe McAchren, who struck out five and allowed five hits in picking up her 19th win.
The Nos. 6-9 hitters — Destiny Snowberger, Nakia Jennings, Megan Tannenbaum and LaOrange — collected four hits and scored all four runs. The group reached base six times in a collective 12 plate appearances.
“I haven’t been hitting strong all year,” LaOrange said. “I’ve done a lot of bunts, small ball. This is one of the first games where I’ve hit far, big hits.”
LaOrange knew she could do more during last week’s matchup against Tipton.
“I had a really solid hit in the Tipton game,” she said. “I realized maybe I can bring power, and not just bunts and small ball. I tried to take advantage of that.”
Catcher Rachel Allen had two hits and second baseman Morgan Gutwein delivered an RBI single to help the Indians win the program’s 14th sectional championship. Twin Lakes beat Western, Benton Central and Peru to claim another title.
Coach Brian Middleton’s team took advantage of four errors by the Tigers, who had at least one baserunner during the final five innings. But Middleton said the bottom of the order, led by LaOrange, was the difference.
“She started driving the ball real well,” Middleton said. “She’s fast, and she’s actually an extra leadoff when she’s up there. She can put the ball down on a bunt and get there. She’s driving the ball really well, and she did it.
“The middle to the bottom was huge in this game. They were carrying the team, and you have to have that.”
Twin Lakes hosts South Bend St. Joseph in Tuesday’s regional. South Bend St. Joseph upset No. 1 Mishawaka Marian in Thursday’s sectional, scoring six runs in the bottom of the seventh to secure a 7-6 victory.