With a quick glance, it’s not obvious they’re sisters, let alone twins, but watch them interact for just a few minutes and it’s clear that these girls have a special bond.
The Rizzi sisters, Christina and Marissa, are key components of the Eastport South Manor softball team, with Christina behind the plate on the receiving end of windmiller Marissa’s arm, and while the two share a passion for softball, their appearances and personalities are as different as they come.
Christina, blond with light eyes and a tiny frame, is the more timid of the two, shy around strangers, while Marissa, slightly taller with brown hair and dark eyes, is outgoing and chatty.
But when it comes to softball, it’s difficult to differentiate which sister is more dedicated to the game.
The twins started their careers on the diamond playing tee-ball at five years old and have since played on a variety of Little League and school teams as well as with a travel team, the Long Island Sharks.
During their younger years, Christina was an infielder, but that didn’t last long.
“I would play infield during Little League but I would play in the dirt, make dirt balls and play in the grass because no one can hit when you’re little so I was bored,” she said. “They put me at catcher so I wouldn’t play in the dirt and I’d actually get to touch the ball.”
Marissa, who also has seen time at first base, headed to the mound just a short time after starting her softball career, and it’s not a surprise her skills were honed at such a young age. She, along with ESM teammate Kailah Konkel, took pitching lessons with Danielle Henderson at just eight years old. Henderson, a Commack native, was a standout collegiate pitcher and a member of the 2000 Olympic gold medal softball team.
The training and changes in position paid off as the Rizzi sisters found themselves as varsity starters in eighth grade, Marissa at first base and Christina behind the plate. While Marisa had traditionally been a pitcher, she didn’t make the move to the varsity mound until her freshman year. And once she did, she instantly impressed. She was named League V Rookie of the Year as an eighth-grader and since taking over the starting pitching role for the 2013 season, she has posted a 13-2 record with 74 strikeouts. Among the highlights for the pitcher this season was coming one out away from a perfect game against Bellport on April 10. She fanned 11 in the 8-0 win. Behind her arm, the Lady Sharks have posted six shutouts this season.
The pair is making a name for themselves at the plate as well. Marissa currently boasts a .706 batting average with 18 RBIs and has struck out just three times all season. Christina had a .432 average with 13 RBIs.
“They have such a great work ethic,” ESM varsity head coach Laura Ward said. “They work 12 months out of the year. It’s obvious they work every day, at home.”
She continued, “They are the best of friends and the worst of friends. They have their moments when they are very critical of each other and very impatient but for the most part, that quickly changes with good old sister bonding. They bring each other up when they need it. It’s a unique relationship and it works well.”
Marissa came into the world just a few minutes before Christina on January 16, 1998, the oldest children for parents Chris and Marie, who also have an 11-year-old son, Nick.
Recently at practice, the girls chatted about their love of the game and one another. Watching the two together is entertaining, as they share glances and smiles without saying a word, laugh at things no one else recognizes as funny and finish each other’s sentences.
“She’s very loud,” Christina said of her sister when asked about their personalities.
“And she’s very quiet,” Marissa said. “But we’re both very funny.”
“What?” Christina said.
“I think we’re hilarious!” Marissa said.
Both girls laughed at themselves while shooting one another that glance that only sisters share.
“If we’re going to do something, we do it,” Christina continued. “We don’t let it go. We’re very persistent.”
Marissa added, “We also handle pressure well.”
Handling the pressure of being so young with such critical roles on a varsity-level team coupled with their tight relationship gets them through the rough times on the diamond.
“When I need a talking to after a bad inning or anything, she’ll come to the mound and talk to me and give me inspiration,” Marissa said.
Her sister added, “When she’s in a certain mood, I can tell something’s wrong. We live together so we know each other’s attitudes so it helps because then you can talk to her or talk to the coach about it.”
“We just get each other,” Marissa said.
The girls are not just a pitcher-catcher battery as they also play dek hockey as a club sport at school. However, softball is their true passion, something they say they would like to turn into a career. If they continue progressing and achieving the way they have as just freshmen, it quite possibly could become a reality.