April 24, 2003 11:00 pm

HERMISTON — The La Grande softball girls had a long road trip to Hermiston Thursday, and they had to play two non-league games in less-than-ideal weather.

Coach Nicole Christian wasn't pleased with how her team was going through pre-game warm-ups. She brought them off the field and gave them a talk about the need to show intensity.

The girls responded with some clutch hitting and great pitching performances in sweeping the Bulldogs in two games, 8-2 and 2-1, the second going nine innings. It was one of the few sporting events actually held in Eastern Oregon Thursday due to heavy rains.

Christian said La Grande rarely sweeps 4A Hermiston. She's hoping the wins give the Tigers a big boost heading into the second half of their Greater Oregon League schedule. La Grande is 5-3 in league, battling with Baker (7-3) and Riverside (8-2) for the league title.

Krystal Gore had a huge first game, hitting a three-run triple and driving in four runs total.

Meghan Henderson had two hits, while Amanda Marcum had two hits with a double. Des McCoy was 5-for-5 in her plate appearances, with four walks and a hit.

Megan Caldwell and Marcum combined for a five-hitter, with Marcum picking up the win.

In the second game, the story was clutch hitting by the same three batters in the top of the seventh and the top of the ninth.

La Grande went into the seventh inning down 1-0.

Gore led off the seventh with a hit, and Caldwell sacrificed her over to second base. Jennifer Funkhouser then came up and hit a game-tying triple.

In the top of the ninth, La Grande needed to score again in order to avoid the dreaded 10th-inning tiebreaker format — in which the inning begins with a base runner on second base. The Tigers have lost two tiebreaker games this season.

Again, Gore led off the inning with a hit. Again, Caldwell laid down a perfect bunt, moving Gore over to second base.

And again, Funkhouser got a hit — this time a single, driving in Gore.

"Those three executed beautifully," said Christian. "That was a game in which we needed three people to execute to win."

Caldwell and McCoy combined on a three-hitter in the second game, with Caldwell gaining the victory. The lone Hermiston run was unearned.

The Tigers play Ontario on the road Saturday. Ontario is 3-5 in league.

— Pierre LaBossire

Game One

La Grande 200 303 0 — 8 10 1

Hermiston 200 000 0 — 2 5 1

Caldwell, Marcum (4) and Henderson. Hertling and Bequette. WP — Marcum. LP — Hertling.

La Grande hits — Gore 2, Marcum 2, Henderson 2, Caldwell, Tams, Lanman, McCoy. 2B — Marcum. 3B — Gore. RBI — Gore 4, Caldwell, Tams.

Game Two

La Grande 000 000 101 — 2 6 1

Hermiston 001 000 000 — 1 3 3

Caldwell, McCoy (4), Caldwell (7) and Henderson. Hoeye and Bequette. WP — Caldwell. LP — Hoeye.

La Grande hits — Funkhouser 2, Gore 2, Marcum, Tams. 3B — Funkhouser. RBI — Funkhouser 2.