June 29, 2005 - When Kira Zeiter isn't absorbing information on the softball field, the former Catalina Foothills High School slugger is doling out harsh hitting lessons to opposing pitchers.
With her sophomore year at Adams State College in tow, Zeiter's hard work both on the softball diamond and in the classroom have earned her one of the highest honors bestowed upon collegiate athletes. At the conclusion of the 2005 season, Zeiter made the Alamosa, Colo., school's history by becoming the first player to be named to the second squad of ESPN: The Magazine's College Division Academic All-American Softball Team, selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
To be eligible for the prestigious list, as the team's designated player, Zeiter first had to be named to the First Team All District VII squad, which comprises Division II schools from the Midwestern states. With a 3.96 GPA and a .375 batting average, the only thing the 2003 Foothills grad got caught off-guard by was the selection.
"I was really surprised," said Zeiter, 21, about the award, "I had no idea that I was even up for anything like that."
In 49 games, Zeiter parked six home runs, drove in 32 RBIs, and collected 11 doubles and a team-high 54 hits, all the while rewriting several pages in the Division II school's record book.
Her first entry into the annals of Adams State softball came April 9 in a 12-4 win over New Mexico Highlands when the designated player went 4-for-4 and slugged two home runs in a game for the second time that year, both Grizzlies' records. A team high 11-game hitting streak helped launch her into the Top 10 in eight of the Adams State offensive categories while earning her a place on the Second Team All Rocky Mountain Conference squad.
When she's not hitting softballs, the marketing major is cracking the books. A 'B' in a science class was the only thing keeping her from a 4.0 GPA.
"I keep getting joked about how I need my batting average to be higher than my GPA," laughs Zeiter. "So, that's the big goal for next year."
Adams State (19-31), playing under its second head coach in as many years, didn't fare as well as Zeiter would have liked in 2005. It got edged out in many one-run ball games. Next year, coaches may think twice about keeping her on the bench in the designated player role. When in the field, playing first base, Zeiter had a perfect fielding percentage, committing zero errors while racking up 62 put-outs and an assist.
Ever since she picked up a bat and glove at the age of 6 and played for the Catalina Foothills Bobbi Sox and Tucson Bandits, Zeiter has been a vault of knowledge on the field, soaking in every aspect of the game she can. Like the Zeiter family, the Bobbi Sox have since relocated from the Foothills to Oro Valley.
While competing for the Bobbi Sox, Zeiter took private instruction from some of the finest players ever to pass through Tucson for the celebrated University of Arizona softball program: Jenny Hill (hitting lessons) and Allison McCutchen (running sessions).
To this day, the right-handed slugger honors her idol Hill, the 1996 National Player of the Year, by wearing the same No. 16, which has since been retired by UA.
"She really taught me so much about my hitting and my hitting mechanics," said Zeiter about her time spent with Hill. "She, of course, learned from coach Mike Candrea, and he's the best."
The lessons have taken her to softball diamonds throughout the surrounding states of the Southwest and even to the United States Specialty Sports Association's national tournament in Beaumont, Texas.
Zeiter is hopeful the tutelage and experience will pay off in the form of a coaching gig somewhere among the college ranks.
"As I've grown up, I feel like I've learned so much about softball and I feel I would be good at (coaching)," she said.
As for the future of the sport she loves, anything is possible.
"I think it's just going to keep growing," said Zeiter, "and more younger girls are going to be starting to play softball and enjoy it and continue to play."
When that happens, Zeiter will be there to teach them.