Holyoke Community College athletic director Tom Stewart describes Freddy Andujar as a "once-in-a-lifetime kid to come walking through here."
"Division I prospects don't usually wind up in our front lap," said Stewart.
The 20-year-old Holyoke native and ace Cougar pitcher has been named a first-team All-American by the National Junior College Athletic Association. He was number one in the nation in NJCAA Division III in strikeouts per game this season, averaging 16.17, was second overall with 97 strikeouts and 39th in E.R.A. at 2.50. The rankings include pitchers from 100s of schools in the U.S.
"Overall, he's the best pitcher in the country, by far," said Stewart. "He's probably the best athlete I've had here. Not even close."
This spring, as Andujar was retiring batters by the dozens for the Cougars on his way to a 6-2 record, coaches from other schools around the country took notice. During the season, Cougar Coach Terry Murphy fielded dozens of calls from Division I, II and III schools interested in Andujar, from Boston College and St. John's all the way down the coast to Virginia Tech and Florida International.
The 5-foot, 9-inch, 165-pound Andujar has signed a letter of intent to play Division I baseball next year for LaSalle University in Philadelphia, which offered him a full scholarship.
He was an athletic and academic star at Holyoke High School. He played Division I baseball his freshman year at the University of Hartford. But the expenses of attending the private college weren't completely covered by his scholarship, so he moved back in with his parents and enrolled at HCC for his sophomore year.
Coach Murphy noticed him right away. "He played fall ball for us. I could clearly see he was going to be one of our top pitchers," Murphy said. "He turned out to be our best pitcher."
The team MVP, as a matter of fact.
Not only is Andujar a great baseball player, but he is also an honors student at HCC. He's got a 3.67 GPA and has to complete two more classes to get his associate degree in criminal justice.
"He's a quality baseball player and a good student and a very nice young man," said Murphy. "That's a great combination of qualities."
Andujar's best pitch is his curve ball and his fastball tops out at 89, he said. "If my fastball is on and I can locate it, I can blow it by people, but I would still say my strikeout pitch is definitely a curveball. I set it up with a curveball and get 'em out with a curveball."
At Lasalle, which plays in the Atlantic 10 Conference, Andujar expects to be the team's closer.
"Lasalle told me I can fight for a starting job if I want, but with the kind of pitcher I am, they think I'll be better off as their closer," he said. "All I have to do is come in and prove myself."
Coach Murphy believes this season's Cougar ace will succeed at Lasalle.
"He's worked hard to get to this point," said Murphy. "He's worked hard on his studies, worked hard on baseball. He's in great shape and is a very coachable young man. I think he's going to do very well with them."
Andujar is playing baseball this summer for the Holyoke Blue Sox.