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Twins are doubly good for Eastport-South Manor, Oceanside

Oceanside sisters Megan, left, and Claire McNamara pose

Oceanside sisters Megan, left, and Claire McNamara pose for a photo during softball practice on May 16, 2014. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

What's the best part about being a twin?

"You always have somebody there for you," Marissa Rizzi said.

"You do everything together," Megan McNamara said.

"You always have someone to talk to," Christina Rizzi said.

"You are there for each other all the time," Claire McNamara said.

Even their answers are nearly identical!

Marissa and Christina Rizzi, softball players at Eastport-South Manor, were lounging around the house one day when they decided it was time to work on some pitches. So they went to their backyard and Marissa began throwing to Christina.

Practice had just ended, but Oceanside's Claire and Megan McNamara decided that they still needed to put in more work. So Claire hit 100 fly balls to Megan in the outfield. Megan then hit 100 ground balls to Claire at shortstop.

So what's the other best part about being a twin?

"Some pitchers don't have a catcher to catch for them, and some catchers don't have a pitcher to throw to them," Marissa Rizzi said. "I have my twin at all times. I feel so lucky."

Added Megan McNamara: "It's like having your own trainer. People will pay to have someone to hit balls to you and I have a sister that will do it for free. We make each other better."

And the twins make their teams better. Yes, there will be a whole lot of winning and twinning at Oceanside and Eastport-South Manor this season.

Claire and Megan McNamara, 17, helped lead Oceanside to the Nassau Class AA championship series last season. The Sailors are ranked as the top team in the county this season.

Marissa and Christina Rizzi, 17, lead Eastport-South Manor, arguably the top team in Suffolk.

It's not every day that the favorites in each county are led by twin sisters. But there are differences between the two pairs.

Though the McNamaras say they are fraternal twins, it is difficult to tell them apart.

"The biggest difference? Wow, there's not many," Oceanside coach Joe Supple said. "They are so similar and inseparable. Every decision is made together."

ESM's Rizzi sisters, who are juniors, bear little resemblance to one another. Marissa is 5-6 with brown hair and brown eyes. Christina is 5-2 with blonde hair and blue eyes.

But they certainly act like twins. They are so in sync that their communication is often nonverbal. When Marissa is struggling or seems flustered, Christina will give her what the two call "the look."

She will take a knee, tilt her head forward and make eye contact with Marissa through her catcher's mask.

"I know when she is on and off," Christina said. "I can tell by her body language. I just give her 'the look' and it helps calm her down."

Judging by her statistics, Marissa doesn't get flustered too often. A contact hitter in the No. 3 spot who is speedy and aggressive on the bases, she's coming off a season in which she hit .629 with 33 RBIs. In the circle, she combines power and finesse, going 14-3 with a 0.50 ERA and nine shutouts last season. But she gives most of the credit for her pitching success to others.

"It's my sister behind the plate and my entire infield and outfield making all of the plays," said Marissa, a second-team All-Long Island selection who has committed to St. John's. "They don't get enough credit, especially Christina."

Eastport-South Manor coach Laura Ward described Marissa as "zany" and Christina as "businesslike." For that reason, Christina is captain of the team and a steadying force behind the plate. She is quick to her feet and has a very fast release when throwing out a runner. She also sets up the target and frames her pitches well.

"They are the dream team," Ward said. "They make it easy for the coaching staff. They make it easy for the team. Having a pitcher and catcher who are twins is truly unique."

The toughest part about pitching to one of the McNamaras is that once the at-bat is over, another one strides to the plate shortly after.

Claire, a first-team All-Long Island selection last season, hit .448 with 17 RBIs and 34 runs out of the leadoff spot. Megan, a second-team All-Long Island selection, hit .432 with 18 RBIs and 27 runs in the three spot. Combined, they struck out only three times all season. Both hit the weight room in the offseason in hopes of turning singles into extra-base hits.

"Our biggest thing is we hate losing," Claire said. "We both remember how [losing in the county final] felt, so we are both very determined."

The two sets of twins are aware of each other, and perhaps later this season all four will be on the same field at once. Marissa in the circle, Christina behind the plate, Claire leading off first and Megan in the batter's box -- with the Long Island championship on the line.

"That would be crazy if we faced each other," Marissa said.

The McNamaras' answers were, once again, nearly identical.

"That would be awesome to play against them," Megan said. "Twins are taking over."


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