Goss: Joliet Junior College’s Andrade named NJCAA Division III Player of Year
June 27, 2012 7:48PM
Joliet Junior College Luke Andrade was MVP of the Division III World Series and national Player of the Year for the national champion Wolves. He will be honored at the Pitch & Hit Club of Chicago banquet Jan. 27. | File photo
Updated: July 29, 2012 4:59PM
Luke Andrade drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th inning a month ago as Joliet Junior College beat Niagara (N.Y.) 6-5 to win the NJCAA Division III World Series in Tyler, Texas.
And you thought it couldn’t get any better.
Maybe it can’t. But how about this for an encore: Andrade recently was named a first-team All-American and the NJCAA Division III Player of the Year.
Wolves associate head coach Gregg Braun delivered the news to the freshman second baseman from Lincoln-Way West.
“When coach Braun called me he was laughing about it, about how I reacted,” Andrade said. “I was speechless. It was awesome to hear.”
“What he said was, ‘You’re lying,’ ” Braun said. “I wouldn’t lie about that. Luke was shocked. We knew he would make a good run at All-American because of his stats, but to be the player of the year, that means a lot.”
Braun noted the NJCAA Divisions I and II players of the year were selected in the Major League Baseball draft early this month. Andrade will not be draft-eligible until after his sophomore season.
His plan, though, is to continue his career at a four-year school and take it from there.
“I am going to keep playing the game as far as it will take me,” said Andrade, who also was named the Division III World Series MVP after going 7-for-16 with four RBI during the Wolves’ 4-0 run. “Obviously, I want to go to a Division I school, but more importantly, I want to play somewhere after JJC.”
Andrade hit leadoff and in the 2-hole briefly for the Wolves but was the 3-hitter “about 60 to 70 percent of the year,” coach Wayne King estimated. “He knocked people in when they were on in front of him. He has some pop.”
In the 66 games for JJC (37-29), the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Andrade finished with a .396 average and 67 RBI. His 95 hits included 20 doubles, five triples and six home runs.
“He’s got another year with us. Outstanding, isn’t it?” King said. “If he puts together a decent year next year, that will help him be recruitable to four-year schools.”
The player of the year award, King said, “is a great honor, obviously, for him to represent our school like that.”
The national championship was the Wolves’ third under King. JJC was the national champion in 2008, and after that season, sophomore outfielder Brandon Howard (Coal City) became JJC’s first national player of the year.
With another season remaining with the Wolves, Andrade will face additional pressure.
“He will have a mark on him to do well again,” King said. “There will be a little pressure. We will have to get together and talk about some things. He has the physical tools. All we told him all his freshman year was just become smarter, more intelligent mentally, in all aspects of the game.”
“I just saw his dad at a youth camp, and even he said Luke would have some pressure on his back next year,” Braun said. “But his work ethic is great. He’s working out every day this summer. He’s a kid who can handle it.”
“People have told me how different it will be now that I won this award,” said Andrade, whose teammate, JJC sophomore outfielder Trey Russell, was selected to the All-America second team. “I look at it that I will work hard and let things fall where they may.”
In his duties as recruiting coordinator, Braun said Andrade, the shortstop at Lincoln-Way West, was not on his radar screen until relatively late.
“I did not hear much about him until close to the end of May last year,” Braun said. “I saw him in one game, then he came to our open tryout. We loved what we saw there and signed him.”
Andrade said he entered JJC wanting to improve his hitting and defense. Mission accomplished. His offensive numbers speak for themselves, and he played well defensively, even filling in some at third base when the Wolves were hit with injuries.
“He made 11 errors this season, which is not too bad,” King said.
But there was more.
“I grew up mentally as a college baseball player,” Andrade said. “It’s definitely a lot different than high school. My success happened because of coach King. His coaching, how he prepares us, really helped me.
“Going into the year, I was hoping to start. I worked hard to get a starting spot. I’m really grateful for how everything worked out, winning the national championship, and now this.”