NEW ORLEANS — He’s counting the days to his 21st birthday, and he is but a sophomore in college. But Tony Rizzotti is already a journeyman baseball player.
After a two-year journey, the right-hander from Arlington, Texas, has found a home Uptown at Tulane, and even a comfort zone on the mound for the Green Wave. But it took him a while to get there.
He was a promising young pitcher at James Martin High, racking up honors and a scholarship to TCU. There Rizzoti found a role as a relief pitcher, appearing in six games.
But while his arm was doing what he wanted it to do, his knees were a different story. In 2010, he had to have a lateral release procedure performed on his right knee. A year later, he had to have a cartilage transplant performed on his left. It was a double whammy that could have taken him out of the game.
“It was very close to taking me out,” Rizzotti said. “I almost didn’t have a place to go.”
But after a year at Grayson College and a rigorous rehab program, Rizzotti found his new home at Tulane. And it has been a good fit so far. Rizzotti, who will turn 21 next month, has made three starts for the Green Wave, all solid outings. And, even better, pain-free outings.
“So far, I’m doing great,” Rizzotti said. “It’s always there in the back of your head, just because you haven’t been doing it for the past two years. But I’m fine now.”
“Fine” for Rizzotti is 2-1, with impressive wins against Sam Houston State and Alabama. He is slated to start Friday as the Wave (7-7) begins a three-game series against High Point of North Carolina. Game time is 6:30 p.m.
Rizzotti said Tulane was a good fit for him.
“I came here and visited and liked it,” he said. “And I felt like they had the most faith in me. I just thought this was the right place for me.”
Rizzotti’s first start came Feb. 15 against Sam Houston, on a cold, blustery evening in Texas. Rizzotti pitched a one-hit shutout, walking one and striking out five in Tulane’s 2-0 win, earning him Conference USA co-Pitcher of the Week honors.
“I couldn’t have scripted it any better,” Rizzotti said. “It was just a dream come true for me.”
Proving that it was no fluke, Rizzotti came back last weekend to earn a win at Alabama, striking out 10 as the Green Wave took a 4-0 victory.
“That one was a little harder than the first game,” he said. “The temperatures dropped down into the 30s that night. And their crowd was really into it. It was a really great atmosphere. I loved it.”
With three starts, Rizzotti has a 0.82 ERA. He has given up 10 hits, walked four and struck out 21 in 22 innings.
Alex Byo (1-1, 1.74 ERA) will pitch for Tulane at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Sunday’s starter is undetermined.