NJCAA softball: Twice the years, twice the fun for JUCO softball star from the Netherlands
May 26—OXFORD — Having experienced players on a team is a plus for any college coach.
Having a player that's doubled their eligibility may be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Florida Southwestern's Feline Poot is finishing her fourth season on the Buccaneers' JUCO softball team, most recently leading her team to victory in the NJCAA DI tournament semifinals at Choccolocco Park on Friday.
Poot played her freshman year in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the NJCAA's softball season. She came back in 2021, tying the single-season program record for home runs with 17.
However, the NJCAA counted neither of her seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so she played her first season that counted towards eligibility last season.
"It's been so much fun to keep playing with a team that always wants to win and always wants the other teammates to do better too," Poot said. "We make each other better and we have so much fun. I think that's a very important part of softball and why our program is so successful, we have so much fun together."
During her extended tenure in Florida, Poot has become a legend in her own right.
Poot is a two-time NJCAA All-America and two-time Suncoast Conference player of the year, ranking atop the all-time FSW leaderboards in home runs and holds what is thought to be the NJCAA record for career RBIs.
She's on her third straight season of hitting at least 10 home runs and boasts a career batting average well over .400.
While she's excelled at the plate, she said that the culture the veterans have created during her tenure has been the one of the difference-makers for the Buccaneers.
"JUCO is hard. Every year is a new year, you will never play with the same team again," Poot said. "It's kind of hard to find a groove, but I think at FSW, we really created a culture. We always say we set the tone. We set the standard and we taught the standard, and I think as a team we continue to do that."
In the NJCAA DI tournament semifinal against top-seeded Odessa, Poot went 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs.
Her no-doubt, two-run home run gave Florida Southwestern a 10-0 lead over the Wranglers to put the team in position to run rule.
Poot said that with the potential to put the team up double digits, she was zoned in.
"I was kind of struggling throughout the whole season, not very myself, swinging at different pitches that I usually don't swing at, but I was locked in, I was ready," Poot said. "I knew what I was looking for."
While Poot found a home in Florida, her hometown of Almere in the Netherlands is over 4,500 miles away from FSW's campus.
She played for a U19 softball team in the Netherlands and was recruited by FSW coach Robert Iamurri when her team played in Clearwater, Florida.
"He's seeing me, but he already had a shortstop and a third baseman, he just kept an eye on me to see what I was doing," Poot said. "I think a year later, he heard through my coaches from the national team that I was looking for a school. I decided to come down here and I've regretted it not one second."
Alabama native Jaden Goodwin, who played for Corner High School and transferred from UAB, said that Poot is a leader on and off the field and that her extended stay has been key for the team.
"She leads with her words and her actions every single day," Goodwin said. "Whether we're at practice, whether we're at lift, on the field, I would just say she's a great leader. She always makes sure our heads are right. No matter if things are going right or wrong, she's always leading us."
As the team looks to play for a national championship on Saturday, Goodwin also said the culture created by Poot and the rest of the veterans has powered the team through its run of success in the DI tournament.
"Our team chemistry is unlike anything else I've ever experienced," Goodwin said. "I would say that we get along very, very well off the field, which just transfers over onto the field and makes us gel better and makes us play better together. I've never played for a national championship before so, that's gonna be awesome."
Sports Writer Thomas Ashworth: 256-236-1551. On Twitter: @ThomasAshworth0.