ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, Jan. 31, 2007) - Sgt. Shannon Eichenseer, a two-time All-Armed Forces softball player, has been selected as the Army's 2006 Female Athlete of the Year by the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.

"I was kind of speechless when I heard, but this is really a great honor for the entire team, not just me," said Eichenseer, 22, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Battle Command Training Program's World Class Opposing Forces at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Eichenseer, who earned 2005 All-Armed Forces honors as a second baseman, was named to the 2006 All-Armed Forces Team as a pitcher, a position she had never played.

"We had a strong group of recruits coming in (to All-Army Trial Camp), but our pitcher from previous years couldn't come back, so I thought that could be a place that I could fill in," said Eichenseer, who filled the void in all-star fashion.

Eichenseer pitched every inning of all nine games. The All-Army women's squad went 8-1 against sister services to win the 2006 Armed Forces Women's Softball Championship Aug. 21-24 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

Eichenseer had an earned run average of 8.53 - compared to opposing pitchers' ERA of 20.82 - and limited opponents to a .373 batting average.

"I taught her how to throw a knuckleball and she throws it better than I do," said 2005 Army Coach of the Year Rob Bailey of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

Eichenseer's trusty glove made hitting up the middle a struggle for opposing batters.

"When it came back at me, yeah, but it was more of self-defense, though," Eichenseer said of making plays off the mound. "Slow-pitch softball is not really dominated by the pitcher, a lot of it comes from the defense. It was an honor to pitch for them. The defense that I had behind me took the pressure off. All I had to do was put the ball over the plate and they handled the rest."

Bailey, however, wasn't so quick to discount Eichenseer's glove.

"She's one of the best fielding pitchers I've ever seen," he said.

Eichenseer also batted .485 with nine RBIs to help the All-Army team win the Armed Forces Championship.

She then pitched the All-Armed Forces team to the Western Regional crown of the ASA Women's Open Hooters Championship Series in Lancaster, Calif., where Eichenseer again earned All-Tournament honors.

The All-Armed Forces team eventually finished as the national runner-up to Long Haul/Enough Said of Tallahassee, Fla., at the Hooters National Championship finals in Oklahoma City.

Along the way, Eichenseer maintained a 3.8 grade-point average while completing 13 correspondence classes online with American Military University, leaving her 30 hours shy of a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.

A graduate of Cattaragus (N.Y.) Little Valley High School, Eichenseer volunteered to help teach English to children at an orphanage in Wonju, Korea, while she was stationed at Camp Long. She also assisted Soldiers at Fort Leavenworth in training for the Army Physical Fitness Test.

(Tim Hipps writes for the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command Public Affairs Office.)