As the Michigan Alumni Band rose to its feet and started its rendition of “The Victors,” Lindsay Montemarano rounded third base with a jump in her step and a horde of teammates waiting eagerly for her arrival.
It was a familiar sight all weekend, as the junior third baseman escaped from the doldrums of inconsistency to emerge as the Wolverines’ most potent offensive force against Northwestern during the weekend series.
“(Michigan coach Carol) Hutchins gave me a tip earlier in the week, that if I want to see more success, that I should swing the bat more,” Montemarano said.
Montemarano’s willingness and ability to take advantage of early-in-the-count pitches proved a lethal combination against the Wildcats. She registered four hits and drew three walks in the three-game series.
“Sometimes I take too many pitches,” Montemarano said. “I wanted to swing and I wasn’t looking for the perfect pitch, I was just looking for something to hit.”
Three of those hits left Alumni Field, as Montemarano upped her home-run total to six on the season. On Sunday, Montemarano smacked two homers — a towering shot over left field and the other a line drive to centerfield.
“The less I try to hit home runs, the more it happens,” Montemarano said.
While her stats suggest she is a boom or bust hitter, Montemarano’s approach at the plate is far from one-dimensional.
“My strength coach jokes about it and he always says, ‘Doubles or dingers or outs,’ ” Montemarano said. “I am not trying to be a power hitter, and I don’t really think of myself as one … but the ball happens to be going over.”
Montemarano’s newfound power stroke out of the seventh spot only compounded Northwestern’s problems on Saturday and Sunday, as the Wildcats simply had no easy outs in any half-inning. Senior centerfielder Sierra Lawrence and senior second baseman Sierra Romero were always on the basepaths. Senior right fielder Kelsey Susalla hit two home runs at the cleanup spot, and sophomore first baseman Tera Blanco had six RBI on Saturday. At the bottom of Michigan’s lineup, proceedings got even tougher as a newly confident Montemarano surfaced as a towering presence at the plate.
While her recent power surge represents a marked development in her evolution as a more well-rounded hitter — she only hit three home runs all of last season — it is only one component of Montemarano’s growing stature on the team.
Though she laments taking too many pitches, patience was a virtue against the Wildcats, as she drew five walks and scored on two of them.
A slick-fielding third baseman, Montemarano was largely able to neutralize Northwestern’s small-ball style. Their leadoff hitters employed a bunt- and slap-hitting-heavy approach, but due to Montemarano’s adept play at third, Michigan’s pitching staff had more security when dealing with the middle of Northwestern’s lineup.
Helping her pitching staff does not just include garnering outs with her glove, but entails being a vocal presence on the field.
“It is not only making it easier for me,” Montemarano said. “If the pitchers hear me say one positive thing, in their mind they are going to start thinking positively.”
She’s always been one of the most vocal Wolverines, but now she’s raising her play to a comparable level. Combining her contagious energy with an emerging skillset, Montemarano is positioning herself for a highly productive month of April and beyond.