The pandemic’s major impact on high school sports wiped out an entire season for spring athletes in 2020.
No. 2 made it harder to recruit all prep athletes as all levels of varsity sports granted an extra year of eligibility and the transfer portal blew up.
Rice senior brother Jack Lausch was affected by one of these things but not the other.
Lausch lost his second season in baseball, but has no shortage of quality options as he wraps up a stellar high school career and looks to the next chapter.
A football quarterback and baseball outfielder/pitcher, Lausch originally planned to continue playing both sports at Notre Dame as a favorite extra.
But his interest in football took off during a breakout senior season that earned him Sun-Times Player of the Year honors.
North West coach Pat Fitzgerald proposed in December and Lausch signed on a week later.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Lausch said. “I’m more than excited about it. I can’t wait to finish it with this [baseball] guys and get up there in the summer and really start having fun.
Lausch is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound prospect in a position of need for the Wildcats. As a senior, he had 3,531 yards and 41 touchdowns while completing 61% of his passes and averaging 7.6 yards per carry.
“[It’s] an opportunity to go to a great school with great people and play football on top of that,” Lausch said.
But will he play football this fall? That’s the question.
Lausch split his time as a college pitcher and JV outfielder as a rookie at Rice.
“Going into sophomore year, he must have been one of our best arms,” Rice’s coach Sean McBride said.
Except there was no second year for Lausch, thanks to COVID-19. And there was no traditional fall football season either, as the pandemic continued to wreak havoc on high school sports.
But there was a silver lining.
“That’s when he was able to really focus on baseball because he could be out playing for his summer team,” McBride said. “And that’s where he kind of took off positionally.”
Now Lausch is an elite outfield prospect with a strong arm and a powerful left-handed bat.
That was on display on March 24, when Lausch’s home run lifted the Crusaders past national powerhouse IMG Academy in Georgia. Both teams are still in the national Perfect Game rankings, with IMG at No. 4 and Rice at No. 26.
“It was pretty special,” Lausch said. “It was obviously a big win for us, to celebrate this moment with these guys.”
According to McBride, shifting the focus from himself to his teammates is a typical Lausch move.
“He’s such a humble star,” McBride said. “It’s such a rare thing to see and I don’t think it’s the fault of a 17-year-old. It’s just the nature of social media and all the things these kids have right now.
“It’s easy to promote yourself. And it’s a throwback in that respect where it’s all about the team.
That said, the spotlight is on Lausch right now. In addition to being the brightest star on a team with serious Class 4A state title aspirations, he’s also one of Illinois’ top prospects for the MLB Draft.
Under baseball’s new pandemic calendar, the draft has been moved from early June to mid-July. By then, off-season football work will have begun.
Some multi-sport athletes may be stressed by the schedule to make life-changing decisions: playing Power Five football? Go play baseball in a minor league?
But Lausch takes it all head on.
“Definitely something to think about,” he said of the project. “Definitely a really cool opportunity. I’m just going to see where all the options are and what’s in my best interest going forward. I will follow my heart and see. I will know what to do when it happens.