Lindsay Montemarano wants extra cheese on her pizza.
The former Seaford softball star now plays third base for the University of Michigan, which will face Florida in a deciding Game 3 on Wednesday night in the Women's College World Series. Earlier this season, Montemarano was bragging to her teammates about how New York has the best pizza. Her deep dish-loving teammate from Chicago objected. A friendly debate ensued, a nickname was born, and a ritual that would go on to gain national attention soon followed.
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Montemarano's teammates began calling her, "Monte Pizza." When she hit a double in their next game, they shouted at her to "sprinkle the cheese." Standing on second base, Montemarano raised her hands and made a pinching-like motion to resemble someone spreading cheese on a pizza.
"So," Montemarano said before Michigan's 1-0 victory Tuesday night in Oklahoma City, "we came up with the idea of making pizza going around the bases."
When one of the Wolverines gets a single, the team moves their hands in a circle as if to roll the dough and spread the sauce. For a double, they raise their hands and sprinkle the cheese. For a triple, they "make it rain" with their favorite toppings. For a home run . . .
"You chomp on the pizza as you touch home plate," Montemarano said, "and your teammates stand behind the plate and sprinkle more cheese."
That's been the recipe for success for the Wolverines. Montemarano, a three-time All-Long Island selection who graduated from Seaford High School in 2013, has been batting in the sixth spot in the order after hitting .252 with three home runs and 20 RBIs as a sophomore.
"I've changed a lot," said Montemarano, who hit .717 with nine home runs and 45 RBIs as a senior at Seaford. "I'm a lot smarter, I'm a lot better with my decisions, and I'm more confident."
She has had to make adjustments at the plate, focusing less on power and more on getting a base hit or a walk to provide a spark. Her leadoff walk in the sixth inning of the semifinals ignited a three-run rally in a 6-3 win over LSU, sending third-seeded Michigan to the championship series for the second time in program history.
"College is a lot quicker than high school," she said. "The pitching is 20 times better and the players are 15 times faster. You have to adjust to not only the faster pitching, but the spin that these pitchers provide. You have to look to attack on the first pitch and get ahead of the pitcher before they can throw you out with their rise ball or changeup."
To better prepare for the demands of Division I softball, Montemarano has adopted more rigorous conditioning routines. She says that she shed 20 pounds by running one to three miles a day and lifting weights three times a week.
"It's grueling but worth it," she said. "I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life."
She is majoring in English, and minoring in marketing at Michigan, where she lives in a house on campus that is directly across from the softball field. She says her parents, Billy and Chrissy, have attended nearly all of her games this season. While they were having dinner at a restaurant in Oklahoma City recently, a highlight of Montemarano's RBI single came on ESPN.
"I like to stand up and be like, 'Hey! That's me!' " Montemarano said of seeing herself on television. "It's really been a dream come true. As a little kid, I would watch the national championship on TV. Last year, I was at home on my couch watching, saying that could have been us. We were one game short last year. To get here, when we stepped on the field for the first time, I literally laid on the ground and took it all in."
Michigan, which had its 28-game winning streak snapped Monday, but came back with a 1-0 win Tuesday night, with four hits and a walk against Florida ace Lauren Haeger, the USA Softball National Player of the Year.
Win or lose, Montemarano said the experience has been invaluable.
"I always wondered what it would be like to compete for a national championship," she said. "And I'm lucky enough to wake up this morning, put a jersey on, go out on the field and do it. It's been an amazing season."
One of her most memorable off-the-field moments was when a television network recorded a team pizza party at Michigan coach Carol Hutchins' house. The players made their own pizzas, and teammates were impressed with Montemarano's pie.
"Maybe that's my calling," she said. "I might have to start looking this summer to open a pizzeria."
She can call it "Monte Pizza."