It took two seasons of riding the bench for Corinne Badger to develop the talent and maturity that enabled the most electrifying breakout performance in recent Stony Brook history.
Badger, a junior catcher, hit six home runs in 12 at-bats at the Florida International University Invitational on opening weekend. She drove in 11 of the Seawolves’ 23 runs, and finished the series slashing .500/.571/2.000.
During an interview with The Statesman, Badger seemed unfazed by the performance that earned her the Stony Brook softball team’s first-ever national Player of the Week honor.
“I was just kind of going in there to have fun,” Badger said. “See the ball, hit the ball. Just keep it as simple as possible, don’t get too big. I’ve been grinding and working.”
But Badger’s journey to stardom was much more complicated than that. Before 2022, Badger spent two unremarkable seasons as catcher Jordyn Nowakowski’s backup. She was a career .068 hitter with seven times as many strikeouts as hits in 44 at-bats.
“I wasn’t mature enough to realize to put in the work to get to the place I am now,” Badger said. “Every D1 player is always the star of their high school team, so it was a hard reality check just to get my head out of my ass.”
Those struggles took an emotional toll on Badger. Head coach Megan Bryant began recruiting her while she was still a sophomore in high school, and Badger had been performing at a high level since she first picked up a bat at eight years old.
“I was always so hard on myself for no reason,” Badger said. “I would get pissed, super frustrated. I was always mentally a really bad player.”
Badger credits the team’s new assistant coach, Courtney Syrett, a former starting catcher for the Ole Miss Rebels, and last year’s upperclassmen with helping her simplify the game. This was also the first time she headed into the season with a starting position secured, which allowed her to develop a stronger bond with star pitcher Dawn Bodrug.
Everything finally fell into place once the Seawolves traveled to Florida for their season opener against Drexel.
Badger’s first home run was a solo shot to left field in the second inning. Once she followed that with a two-run homer in the fourth, she realized something uncanny was brewing.
“I got a lot more confidence each at-bat,” Badger said. “A lot more composure, which was nice to see. Staying calm in the box.”
Badger had four at-bats during Stony Brook’s first two games; all of them were home runs. The Seawolves’ margin of victory was such that they would have lost both games if not for Badger’s heroics.
Her most impressive moment of the weekend came in a game she was not even supposed to appear in. Bryant kept Badger out of the lineup for Saturday’s matchup with Brown to give her some well-earned rest, but the Seawolves floundered without her. Once Brown went up 3-1 in the fifth inning, Bryant told Badger to start warming up as a pinch hitter.
Badger needed only two pitches to crush a three-run walk-off home run to left field in the bottom of the seventh to give Stony Brook a 4-3 victory.
“I was exhausted. I haven’t been so tired in so long. And so I was like, ‘I just got to dial it in,” Badger said. “[I was thinking] just keep it simple, swing at a good pitch. Just try to do something to get a runner on, anything. I didn’t expect [a home run] but I’ll take it.”
In the Seawolves’ second tournament, the San Diego Classic, Badger added another home run Friday against San Diego to bring her total to seven on the season. With 46 games remaining, she is on pace to obliterate the program single-season record of 19 set by Bria Green in 2015.
“I’ve been thinking about it,” Badger said. “It’s definitely in mind, but I don’t want to try and do it. I just want to do the same thing I’ve been doing.”
Badger went for 4-for-15 at the plate during the San Diego Classic, adding four more RBIs and earning two intentional walks, a measure of the fear she strikes in opposing teams. While it was not a repeat of opening weekend’s fireworks, she is still slashing .370/.469/1.148 on the season.
No one knows how long Badger will keep up her hot start, but all eyes are on her now.