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SouthtownStar Athletes on Campus: Sandburg alum Dan Rizzie a Johnny Bench Award nominee

Dan Rizzie Xavier | Supplied photo

Dan Rizzie, of Xavier | Supplied photo

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Updated: May 8, 2014 9:38AM



Of the 82 nominees for the 2014 Johnny Bench Award as the top catcher in Division I baseball, only one has the privilege of playing collegiately in the same city where the former Cincinnati Reds great and 14-time National League All-Star played his career.

That distinction belongs to Xavier backstop Daniel Rizzie. The Sandburg graduate is one of 10 sophomores nominated for the honor.

“That’s a really, really big honor for me,” the Orland Park resident said. “I don’t worry about that stuff, but I just take it for what it’s worth.

“I’ve been given the opportunity for a lot of playing time, and our coaches have trust in me and keep me in the lineup. They’ve given me the opportunity to succeed.

“I didn’t know there was such a thing (as the Johnny Bench Award) before this year. I was looking at the Xavier website and I saw the press release on there. I went on (the Johnny Bench Award’s) website to look up some more information and it is a pretty big deal. My family was really happy for me. This is a pretty cool thing.”

The watch list will be narrowed down to the semifinalists, to be announced May 15. The finalists will be announced June 3. A final vote among the national committee will occur during the College World Series. All finalists will be brought to Wichita, Kan., and the winner will be announced June 26 at the Greater Wichita Sports Banquet.

“Xavier is right in the heart of Cincinnati,” Rizzie said. “Johnny Bench was one of the greatest to ever play.

“It’s just very cool even to be considered for this award.”

Winning awards isn’t something new for Rizzie. He was named the Big East’s Player of the Week by College Sports Madness for the period ending March 4.

In two games at the Riverview Inn Classic in Clarksville, Tenn., Rizzie hit .500 with a 1.200 slugging percentage, totaling five hits and one stolen base.

Rizzie’s efforts were highlighted in a 16-1 victory March 1 over local rival Dayton. Rizzie was 4-for-6 on the day with two home runs, two doubles, four RBI and four runs against the Flyers.

To date,, Rizzie was hitting .253 with two homers and 12 RBI. He had five doubles and 14 runs.

“I had a pretty big game against Dayton,” Rizzie said. “I saw the ball well and tried to put some good swings on it. It all kind of snowballed for me from there. It ended up being a pretty good weekend.

“When we play Dayton, it seems like we’re more intense and more focused. Dayton is a big rival for us, being in the same state.”

Spartan pride

Dubuque junior forward Jenna Kotas (Andrew) was chosen to the 2013-14 All-Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball First Team.

The 5-foot-11 Kotas paced the Spartans during the season in points per game (15.8), three-pointers (53) and rebounds per game (5.5).

The Tinley Park resident also was named the IIAC’s Athlete of the Week in women’s basketball for the period ending Feb. 23 as she totaled 38 points, nine rebounds and four steals in road wins over Buena Vista and Luther.

Kotas also was named the IIAC’s Athlete of the Week for the week ending Dec. 22.



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