OCOEE Cat Floyd arrived at Polk State College Jan. 16 excited to participate in an alumni game for the school’s softball program.
She left later that day with a plaque commemorating the retiring of her No. 11 jersey.
That no player for the Eagles will wear that number again came as both a humbling — and unexpected — form of recognition for a career that saw Floyd, an Ocoee High School alum, named Florida College System Activities Association State Pitcher of the Year in 2011.
“It was a big surprise; I had no idea it was coming,” Floyd said. “It really showed me that my perseverance, my dedication — all those things really mean something. I was like, ‘Thank God I’m wearing sunglasses, because I’m crying right now.’”
Floyd graduated in 2009 from Ocoee and recalls not really considering that her softball career would extend beyond competing at the varsity level for the Knights. That all changed when Polk State coach Jeff Ellis took in a game in which Floyd happened to be pitching.
“I was lucky to get to college,” Floyd said. “(Ellis) saw that I was tall, saw that I had a little bit of movement on my ball, and he took a chance on me.”
Floyd — who is currently 6-foot-2 and was 5-foot-11 in high school — dramatically improved during her time at Polk State. In addition to tutelage from Ellis, Floyd said she learned a great deal from teammate and fellow pitcher Greta Cecchetti, who was her roommate and one year her senior.
Over her two seasons with the Eagles, Floyd recorded 35 wins, 13 losses, a 1.82 ERA and 290 strikeouts. The Ocoee native was Suncoast Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2011 — a season in which she earned 22 wins and posted a school-record-tying 0.97 ERA.
For her impressive sophomore campaign, she became the only Polk State softball pitcher to have been recognized as an NJCAA All-American First Teamer.
“During her time here at Polk, Cat was the hardest worker I’ve ever had and improved more than any player I have ever had,” Ellis said. “She went from a freshman pitcher who struggled to one who as a sophomore became dominant and one of the best pitchers in the country. … (She) was a huge part in laying the foundation for the program that we are today.”
Polk State is a junior college, so Ellis transferred to Colorado Mesa, a Division II program, after her graduation. After completing her career, she is back in Central Florida. To this day, she is thankful for the coach who took a chance on her.
“I just took that opportunity and I just ran with it — I was blessed to have that opportunity,” Floyd said. “I did not think I was going to go to college.”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].