By the Hermiston Herald
UMATILLA Ashley Martinez struggled at times to find the strike zone and Echo made some careless blunders on the base paths.
But Tuesday afternoon it hardly mattered.
The Echo High School softball team ran the bases at will and took advantage of a plethora of walks as the Cougars overmatched Umatilla for a pair of Columbia Basin Conference wins.
The Cougars (9-7, 5-4 CBC) benefited from 14 walks and rolled to a 20-3, five-inning win in the first game.
Echo continued to roll in the nightcap taking an 11-1 lead before settling for a 19-13 win to complete the sweep.
"On a day like that, I tried to get all the kids some playing time," Echo coach Misty Ducre said.
Umatilla (2-11, 0-8) showed some life in the second game, and had a chance to throw a wrench in the Cougars' district playoff hopes with a frenzied comeback.
Trailing 11-1 after the third inning, Umatilla got all the way back to 13-12 in the fifth inning after a Brianne Bieren grand slam home run to center field.
But the Cougars quickly ended the notion of an upset, answering with six runs in the final two innings.
"That hit (got us going) I think," Umatilla coach Cindy Roxbury said of the nine-run fifth inning.
Amanda Morris, who went six innings to get the win on the mound, led the Cougars with four hits.
Ashley Martinez added three hits and Ali McQuain and Cate Zielke each had two.
In the first game, Echo broke things open in the third inning with five runs to take a commanding 13-3 lead.
The Cougars went on to add two runs in the fourth inning and five more in the sixth.
"It's frustrating," Roxbury said. "We get down by 10 or 11 runs like that we get behind the 8-ball and its tough."
Martinez went the distance to pick up the win, allowing three runs on three hits and she walked six batters.
Bridgette Packard went 3-for-5 with three runs scored.
Echo hosted Heppner for a single game Thursday to conclude a doubleheader that was cut short Saturday due to thundershowers. Results were not available at press time.
"We're trying to put it all together here," said an optimistic Roxbury about picking up a couple wins in the final weeks of the season. "Good things will happen if we keep working hard."