The pandemic’s top impact on high school sports was wiping out an entire season for spring athletes in 2020.
No. 2 was making it harder for all prep athletes to be recruited as all levels of college sports granted an extra year of eligibility and the transfer portal exploded.
Brother Rice senior Jack Lausch was affected by one of those things but not the other.
Lausch lost his sophomore baseball season, but has no shortage of quality options as he wraps up a standout high school career and looks toward the next chapter.
A quarterback in football and outfielder/pitcher in baseball, Lausch originally planned to continue playing both sports at Notre Dame as a preferred walk-on.
But his football interest took off during a breakout senior season that wound up earning him Sun-Times Player of the Year honors.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald offered in December and Lausch committed a week later.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity,” Lausch said. “I’m more than excited about it. I can’t wait to finish it out with these [baseball] guys and get up there in the summer and really start to have some fun.”
Lausch is a 6-3, 200-pound prospect at a position of need for the Wildcats. As a senior, he accounted for 3,531 total 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 then play football on top of that,” Lausch said.
But will he be playing football this fall? That’s the question.
Lausch split time as a varsity pitcher and JV outfielder as a freshman at Rice.
“Going into sophomore year, he was slated to be one of our top arms,” Rice coach Sean McBride said.
Except there was no sophomore year for Lausch, thanks to COVID-19. And there wasn’t a 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 really able to focus on baseball because he could be outside to play 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 potent left-handed bat.
That was on display March 24, when Lausch’s walk-off homer lifted the Crusaders past national power IMG Academy in Georgia. Both teams are still in the Perfect Game national rankings, IMG at No. 4 and Rice at No. 26.
“That was pretty special,” Lausch said. “That was a big win for us obviously, to celebrate that moment with these guys.”
Shifting the focus from himself to his teammates is a typical Lausch move, according to McBride.
“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 any 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 he’s a throwback in that regard where it’s all about the team.”
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times
That said, the spotlight is on Lausch right now. Besides being the brightest star on a team with serious Class 4A state title aspirations, he also is 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, offseason football work will have begun.
Some multisport athletes might be stressed out by the timeline to make some life-changing decisions: Play Power Five football? Head off to play minor-league baseball?
But Lausch takes it all in stride.
“Definitely something to think about,” he said of the draft. “Definitely a really cool opportunity. I’ll just see where all the options are and what’s in my best interest going forward. I’m going to follow my heart and see. I’ll know what to do when it comes.”