By the time he begins playing for the Ohio University baseball team, Olentangy Liberty senior A.J. Rausch's swing should be among his biggest strengths.

He's had plenty of time to work on it the past few weeks after the spring sports season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"I go up to a field twice a week to throw long toss, (I) have been hitting in an outdoor cage and I lift in my basement," Rausch said. "We have a net in my house and I hit in my garage. That's the baseball activity I'm doing.

"I see this time as an opportunity to get better. Everybody is going through it, so it's not like it's just me. The ones that find the positive in the situation will come out better. ... When I get to OU, I'll be ready and hopefully I can try to play as quickly as I can."

Staying busy has never been a problem for Rausch, a multisport athlete who committed to the Bobcats during the fall of his junior year after helping the Patriots win their first Division I state title a few months earlier.

"A.J. is a throwback," coach Ty Brenning said. "It doesn't matter what he's doing as long as he's competing. He's generally excited for whatever challenge is in front of him. So many kids today connect with a group of friends or a certain aspect of a sport. ... In A.J.'s case, I think he relates well to all kids. He's a popular teammate and he has a unique skill set. What I really think about is his desire to compete, and he really enjoys doing things that are challenging. We could see that firsthand on the field, but also as preparation out of season."

As a sophomore, Rausch started seven games but served mostly as a designated runner.

In an 8-1 victory over Whitehouse Anthony Wayne in the state championship game, he entered in the third inning as a designated runner and scored the Patriots' fifth run. He scored 17 runs on the season as Liberty went 30-4.

Then last spring, Rausch started all of the Patriots' games, mostly in center field, and finished with one home run, 20 RBI, 22 runs scored and a .322 batting average.

Liberty lost to Upper Arlington 4-3 in a district final to finish 23-6.

"(Ohio University) recruited me as an outfielder, but I told them I was going to play shortstop for Liberty this year," Rausch said. "They really liked me so if necessary they could put me in the infield, but the majority of the time I'll play in the outfield.

"Liberty baseball is just a family program. I'm going to miss that and miss the coaches. I'm going to miss playing with all my friends I grew up playing with, and the state championship is something I'm never going to forget."

Rausch also played for the boys basketball team, averaging 2.7 points last winter as Liberty went 18-7 and reached a Division I district semifinal. He also was a contributor as a junior when the Patriots reached a state semifinal for the first time.

Last fall, Rausch played for the football team for the first time and went on to make second-team all-OCC-Buckeye Division as a wide receiver. He had 34 receptions for 591 yards and four touchdowns.

"He was willing to put in time when a lot of people weren't around and he had really high goals at an early age of being a Division I college baseball player," Brenning said. "He embraced the recruiting process and all that was with that, if it was sacrificing his weekends and free time with friends or the parts of being a normal teenager. That stuff is contagious and for a coach, it's really fun to be around those kids and celebrate that mindset."

This spring, Rausch started a mulching company with two of his friends and occasionally has played golf. His father, Malcolm Rausch, played golf for Ohio University.

His twin sister, Sarah Rausch, was a volleyball player for Liberty who also is planning to attend OU.

"Pretty much my whole family went to OU," he said. "It's always been the school I've wanted to go to. I've always wanted to play college baseball so when they offered me, it was a dream come true."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek