High school baseball: Nationally ranked Brother Rice loses to Edwardsville in Class 4A state semifinals

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Brother Rice came into the Illinois High School Association Class 4A baseball final in Joliet as the heavy favorite. The Crusaders impressed early in the season at national events, beating two highly regarded teams from Florida, IMG and Montverde.

The win over IMG ended with Jack Lausch’s home run in the ninth inning. Lausch, the Sun-Times Football Player of the Year, signed with Northwestern as a quarterback but is also one of the state’s top prospects in the MLB Draft.

Friday’s semifinal game against Edwardsville at Duly Health and Care Field opened with another highlight from Lausch. Tigers leadoff hitter Grant Huebner snatched a ball deep to center field that would have gone over the fence of any high school park.

Lausch says he knew he had it all along. He was probably the only one of this opinion. But he was successful, catching the ball in a full back-to-home sprint, Willie Mays style.

“[Left fielder Nick Daugherty] did a great job talking to me,” Lausch said. “He helped me a lot. In fact, we kind of practiced that a bit.

That first moment ended up being the highlight of the game for the Crusaders. Edwardsville’s big-bats came out on top in the midset and the Tigers took down Brother Rice 7-4.

Edwardsville will face the winner of the McHenry-Mundelein semi-final in the championship game on Saturday.

“We played against some really good teams,” Edwardsville coach Tim Funkhouser said. “We beat the Missouri State Champion. Our guys have been in that environment and they expect to do well. That’s why they were able to calm their nerves.

Edwardsville has been a regular at the National Baseball Finals over the years. The Tigers won titles in 2019, 1998 and 1990 and made 16 appearances in total. But Brother Rice entered the game ranked 14th in the nation by MaxPreps, one of three Midwest teams ranked in the top 25.

“There’s no question about Brother Rice,” Funkhouser said. “They’re a phenomenal team and their coaches are doing a great job. We are happy to have come out on top today.

Indiana rookie Dylan Warda started for the Crusaders (35-6). He pitched 4 ⅓ innings and allowed seven runs (four earned), five hits, struck out six and walked four.

Steps and a few defensive errors made the difference in the match. The Tigers pride themselves on their discipline at home plate.

“If you’re not throwing strikes as much as you want, we can expose that,” Funkhouser said. “Our guys are really patient. It’s hard to do it in this environment, but our guys did a great job.

Lausch came on in the fifth and shut down Edwardsville (33-4) for the final two innings.

The Crusaders had runners on base in the fourth and fifth innings, but were stopped by a pair of impressive double plays from Edwardsville.

“Those are huge,” Lausch said. “Throughout the playoffs, we had a few ourselves. These are round killers.

The Tigers took the lead on a tricked onside steal in the third inning. They had runners in the first and third rows. The runner leading at the start was the decoy. He pretended to fall as third runner Caeleb Copeland raced home.

“This game is good for that situation,” McBride said. “We had a southpaw on the mound and we were ready for it. [Warda] had a curved grip. The guy took off and he didn’t change his grip in time and we didn’t play. We knew this was coming, but they outdid us.

Lausch ended up failing in the football and baseball national semi-finals. But along the way, he’s provided more highlights in two major sports than any player in recent memory. After the loss, one of his teammates pointed out that you remember the special moments of your entire life as the trophies just gather dust.

Maybe that’s why Lausch wasn’t in tears after the game. He held his head high and looked at the positive.

“It was a really cool experience,” Lausch said. “I am delighted that younger people see this as something to work towards and something to build towards. I hope they will come back here regularly.

Brother Rice vs. Edwardsville Box Score

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