In a softball career that has consisted of constant ebbing and flowing, catcher Corinne Badger has finally found her stride by adopting a new mindset. After batting just .068 through the first two years of her NCAA career, Badger burst onto the scene last year to become one of the best catchers in the nation. Stony Brook’s star slugger hopes to build upon her breakout season and help the Seawolves make a strong first impression in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
Badger was born in Pleasant Valley, N.Y., where she was immediately introduced to the sport by her two older, baseball-playing brothers.
“Ever since I was in a stroller, I was at a baseball field,” Badger said in an interview with The Statesman. “They would keep me busy by getting me into sports, like tee-ball and rec ball.”
Badger’s family roots drew her to softball, where she first began playing for a travel team at nine years old. Badger experimented with other sports when she was younger, such as basketball and volleyball. However, heading to high school, she decided to commit herself solely to softball.
“I just like how fast-paced [softball] is,” Badger said. “I don’t like a timer like lacrosse and soccer and all of that. They’re limited to time. You get to pace it out how you want it in softball.”
Brittany Allocca, a former catcher for Hofstra, heavily inspires Badger’s game. Alloca is the daughter of one of Badger’s former trainers, and they grew close while training together.
“She was basically my main idol,” Badger said. “I always did what she did. I ended up learning a lot of things from her and trying to mirror what she did. Now that she’s progressed on after college, her and I are still working together, trying to have me be better than her. That is both of our goals, which is really nice.”
Badger attended Arlington High School in LaGrange, N.Y. and played on the varsity softball team for all four years. Her experience on the team helped her learn how to be a leader at a young age.
“Freshman year, I made varsity. Since there wasn’t a lot of competition on the team, I had to grow into a leadership role very early on,” Badger said. “It was good for me to get my feet wet into it, especially getting me ready for college.”
That freshman year, Badger made a career-altering change by converting to catcher. Formerly a corner infielder, Badger’s trainers taught her how to catch to help improve her versatility. The move to behind the dish came with challenges for Badger, as the transition was not as seamless as she had hoped.
Along with learning how to frame and block pitches, Badger had to deal with other changes. The position required her to become more of a vocal leader — something she had little experience with.
“It was tough,” Badger said. “When I was younger, I was kind of quiet. I wasn’t very outgoing. Talking wasn’t something I liked to do. Definitely, learning how to have a big voice … was one of the biggest things. It was kind of a personality change going from third base to catcher.”
Badger’s dream of becoming a collegiate softball player came true rather early. She was scouted as an underclassmen in high school, attending several college camps in order to gain more recognition.
During the fall of her sophomore year of high school, Stony Brook softball head coach Megan Bryant began scouting Badger at her showcase events. After being taken on a campus visit by Bryant, Badger officially committed to Stony Brook that December. The university’s prestigious academics sealed the deal for Badger, which was a major focal point of her recruitment.
“I just really liked the schooling here, and that was one of the main things for me,” Badger said. “What my parents and I always talked about was that softball isn’t going to be forever. So finding a school that’s very good for academics and going to get me somewhere in life after softball was one of the main things I was looking for.”
The monumental achievement that saw her dreams come to fruition was met with repercussions. After committing to Stony Brook, Badger went on to have a disappointing sophomore season of high school. The season-long slump led to Badger changing her mindset and improving her dedication.
“I thought ‘I don’t need to work, I’m that girl,’” Badger said. “I had a terrible season. So bad. It was very humbling for that to happen. Junior year, I ended up coming back with a brand new mentality and getting after it. It was a really good season for me.”
Upon arriving at Stony Brook, Badger was immediately a part of program history. In her NCAA debut, she caught a perfect game from former pitcher Dawn Bodrug.
“I remember that day, I was freaking out,” Badger said. “Shoutout to Dawn for definitely making it easy for me to ease into it. It was definitely a lot of fun for that to be my first game. I was so nervous that I didn’t even realize she was throwing a perfect game.”
However, her freshman year was not nearly as perfect as her debut. In a season that was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she appeared in just 10 games. She struggled with the bat during that canceled 2020 season, batting .087 in 23 at bats.
Her struggles got even worse as a sophomore. Badger recorded just one hit in 21 at-bats, good for an .048 batting average. She attributed her rough start to the same thing that plagued her as a sophomore in high school — a poor mindset.
“It was definitely humbling,” Badger said. “Looking back at it now, I just did not have the right mindset coming in here. It was just like what I said about my high school sophomore season. I was like ‘Oh, I’m D1 now, I’m so cool,’ and all of that stuff.”
It all changed for the Seawolves’ catcher in her junior year. Badger prioritized the mental part of her game in the offseason and came back with an improved approach. To help exorcize the mental demons that plagued her while hitting, Badger read the book “The Mental Keys to Hitting: A Handbook of Strategies for Performance Enhancement” by H.A. Dorfman. She made a concerted effort to uplift herself and stay positive.
“Ever since I was young, I was always a mental player,” Badger said. “I was always getting in my head. If I took a bad swing, I would think ‘Oh my God, what the hell am I doing?’ I stayed away from things like that.”
Badger’s mental work paid off in 2022. She played in all 47 of Stony Brook’s games, batting .312 with 16 home runs and 44 runs batted in. The breakout star led the America East Conference (AE) in slugging percentage (.716), on-base plus slugging (1.093), home runs and RBIs.
Her newfound offensive presence was felt and recognized immediately. During the Seawolves’ opening weekend tournament, Badger went 6-for-12 with six home runs. Her performance earned her the National Player of the Week award, becoming the first Seawolf to ever earn the honor.
“It was definitely very rewarding because I knew I put so much work in on the mental side and the physical side,” Badger said. “I know now what I need to do. Just learning from last season, I know what I can do even better.”
Though the positional transition was difficult in high school, Badger has become an outstanding backstop at the Division I level. She has only committed two errors in 498 chances with Stony Brook. For each of the past three years, she has helped some of the best pitchers in the AE have success, such as Bodrug, Melissa Rahrich and Shelbi Denman.
“I definitely take a lot of pride in my defense,” Badger said. “If I’m having a bad game hitting, I always can rely on going out there and providing defense.”
Having an extra year of eligibility due to the 2020 season’s cancellation, Badger intends to return in 2024 for a fifth year. She will be looking to earn a Master of Business Administration degree in hopes of owning her own strength and conditioning business.
For now, Badger has her eyes set on a monster senior season in a new conference. After being placed on the 2023 CAA Softball Preseason Watch List, expectations remain high for Stony Brook’s stud catcher.
Kenny Spurrell contributed reporting.