There are a lot of obvious good things about doing well in school at Cal. But for Cal catcher Lindsey Ziegenhirt, the last couple of years it also helped maintain her sanity.
Thursday, Ziegenhirt was named a Capital One All-Academic District 8 First Team selection for the second time in her career. The senior has a 3.77 cumulative GPA during her time in Berkeley.
Those classroom successes were magnified during her sophomore and junior years when she struggled on the diamond for the Bears. A high school All-American from Elk Grove, Calif., Ziegenhirt opened eyes during her freshman season when she had 15 home runs and 58 RBI and was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team.
Always solid defensively, Ziegenhirt struggled at the plate each of the next two seasons. She batted just .219 as a sophomore and dropped to .156 last season. Her power numbers suffered as well.
"If I was losing confidence in softball, I knew I was going to kill it in the classroom," Ziegenhirt said. "It helped me keep my sanity."
Now a senior, Ziegenhirt is killing it both with her studies and on the field. Ziegenhirt is tied for fourth in the Pac-12 with 15 homers and ranks fifth with 49 RBI heading into this weekend's series against Stanford, the final three home games of her career. Her .311 batting average ranks third on the team.
"Lindsey has just gone back to her old form," Cal coach Diane Ninemire said. "She's worked extremely hard this year to get back where she knows she can be. She's feeling more relaxed and more comfortable at the plate. Everything has fallen into place for her. I'm just happy for her that she's back to her old form."
Ironically, it may have been one of the personality traits that helps her do so well in the classroom that contributed to her struggles at the plate. Ziegenhirt is a self-proclaimed perfectionist, which allows her to do bang-up work in school. But she said that proved to be a detriment athletically, as she let her frustrations and self-criticism snowball during her tough sophomore and junior years.
"I've always known that being positive and staying in a good mental state was something I needed to do," Ziegenhirt said. "But I'm also kid of a perfectionist, so once I start struggling a little bit, frustration takes over and it gets harder for me to get back into a positive mindset."
Faced with her last chance as a senior to get back on track, Ziegenhirt made the conscious decision to focus on the fun nature of playing college softball. She also said having an offseason to change things up is easier to do during the rigors of the jam-packed schedule of the regular season.
"It's hard to figure stuff out in the middle of a season that moves so quickly," she said. "I knew I could play better. It really was just a process of maturing and figuring more stuff out about myself as a player. Unfortunately, it took two years instead of two months. But I'm glad it happened when it did and I wouldn't change anything."
There's no question Ziegenhirt is having fun now. She's one of the Bears captains and their leader both offensively and defensively. And she is helping the Bears put together another fine season. Cal heads into the weekend ranked No. 12 in the country with a 35-12 overall record.
"She's a good example that I've used with other players," Ninemire said. "When they get into that part of their career when they are not playing well, they can look at Lindsey for strength. If you put in the time and try to stay positive, you can work through it and eventually good things will happen. You just have to make the commitment and have the dedication to work through it."