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Baseball: Mike Costanzo grows into winner for St. Rita

Mike Costanzo St. Ritpitches solid 8 innings allowing only one St. Laurence run St. Laurence Monday May 5th 2014 Burbank.

Mike Costanzo, of St. Rita, pitches a solid 8 innings allowing only one St. Laurence run at St. Laurence, Monday, May 5th, 2014 in Burbank. | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 23, 2014 3:02PM



There wasn’t much interest from baseball powerhouses in the Catholic League Blue when Mike Costanzo was in eighth grade at St. Christina School in Mount Greenwood.

Maybe the lack of interest was because to his size. At the time, Costanzo stood 5-foot-6, 100 pounds. Or maybe it was a lack of a blazing fastball, which hovered in the low-70s (mph). Maybe it was a combination of both.

It was reality, though.

“I had no one (high schools) calling me in eighth grade,” Costanzo said. “I was set to go to (Brother) Rice because of a friend. Two days before the entrance exam, he told me he was going to test at Rita. So I tested at Rita.”

It’s safe to say Costanzo has proved doubters wrong during his four years at St. Rita.

He did experience a growth spurt — he stands 6-foot and tips the scales at 165 pounds. His fastball experienced an increase in velocity, consistently reading in the upper 80s. He has the potential to reach the low 90s.

Most important, he’s a winner.

In three years on the varsity, he’s won 25 games. This season, he’s 8-1 with a 1.70 ERA and has struck out 83 in 532/3 innings.

“Mike’s competitiveness is unbelievable,” St. Rita coach Mike Zunica said. “He has no fear; he’s the ultimate competitor and teammate. Those are the things that make Mike a guy we’ll never forget around here.”

Opposing hitters may have different memories of Costanzo. Whether it’s pounding the strike zone with his fastball or making them look bad chasing his breaking ball, Costanzo has had his way with most opponents.

He won seven games as a sophomore, 10 as a junior and eight this season, with potentially four to five more starts. How many more times Costanzo will toe the rubber depends on how well the Mustangs perform in the postseason. Either way, he’ll rank among the all-time winningest pitchers in St. Rita’s 103-year history.

“We have one goal,” he said. “All my stats and team stats, the win-loss record we have, it means nothing to me without a state championship ring. I don’t care how we win, as long we win and have fun doing it.”

St. Rita had plenty of fun while winning its first 26 games of the season. The Mustangs suffered their first loss of the season vs. St. Laurence, with whom they ended up sharing the coveted Catholic League Blue championship.

Costanzo’s best friend, T.J. Marik, is a catcher for St. Laurence. The two may be rivals on their respective high school teams, but they’re set to attend Austin Peay, located in Clarksville, Tennessee, together in the fall.

“Something just felt right with Austin Peay,” Costanzo said. “I spent 15 hours there on a visit and loved it.

“My dream was to play college baseball down south. They gave me that opportunity, and I plan on making the most of it.”



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