Meet Lindsey Walter, Binghamton Softball's Shohei Ohtani
Situated at the bottom of a hill in Lindsey Walter’s backyard of her Budd Lake, N.J., childhood home is a batting cage built by her father, Robert. The cage was built to help Walter and her brother, who played baseball, train at home when the weather warmed up.
Robert leveled out an area a little longer than 60 feet to fit a Major League Baseball mound for Walter’s brother and strung up nets about 10 feet high. Each spring, Robert would head down to the bottom of their backyard, climb the ladder and hang up the net, repeating the same steps in the winter to take it down.
Walter always played three sports growing up: field hockey, basketball and softball. But when it came down to which one she wanted to pursue in college, Walter always knew it was going to be softball, the sport she’d dedicated the most time to. Her parents initially signed her up for softball, knowing that her area had one of the best youth programs in the state.
By the time she was eight years old, Walter wanted to pitch. Her brother did the same in high school, and she found that being the one to control the game was intriguing.
So, Walter asked her parents to sign her up for pitching lessons, and they found a local coach in the area who helped develop her dual-threat abilities on the softball diamond. The next year, her speed and ability to consistently hit won her a spot on the 10-and-under team, and the rest is history.
Walter, now a redshirt sophomore at Binghamton University, is making a massive impact for her team both in the batter's box and the circle. Through April 30, she had a 2.39 ERA with six wins and two saves, while also batting .448 in the middle of the Bearcats’ lineup. She almost opted against playing Division I softball and, without a few injuries and one tantalizing bullpen session, would not be galvanizing the America East Conference as Binghamton’s Shohei Ohtani.
Walter always batted right-handed as a kid because she threw and pitched right-handed. But, in high school, her club softball coach wanted to teach her how to hit left-handed as a slapper, adding it in as “an extra utility” to Walter’s already impressive arsenal.
“I was fast, so it made sense,” she said. “It was definitely hard in the beginning, I'm not gonna lie.”
Though she was one of the fastest players on her high school team, she still struggled with how to position her feet in the box and what steps to take while slapping.
She could get away with more in high school, Walter said, but after redshirting her freshman year at Binghamton and only seeing eight at-bats through 27 games last year, she began to struggle more. The learning curve of Division I softball hit her hard, and she only notched one hit last year, while striking out four times.
Walter had originally looked at Division III programs like the University of the Sciences, Stevenson and Lebanon Valley, placing her eventual decision to major in chemistry above her desire to play Division I softball.
But, when she toured Binghamton, she fell in love with the campus and the opportunity to play softball at a school that also valued her major and future career plans. Former head coach Michelle Johnston brought her on as a utility player who wasn’t supposed to pitch, but Walter said she was willing to play wherever the team needed her to.
“I definitely think I made the right choice, but (I) also pushed myself and made myself work harder,” Walter said. “I feel like if I chose another school, I would have been a little bit more complacent.”
Playing mostly outfield after her redshirt season, Walter appeared in 27 games and made three assists while also stealing one base. Then, after one pitcher graduated, one transferred and another went down with an injury, Walter texted now–head coach Jess Bump saying, “If we needed another pitcher … I would be willing to do it.”
Bump obliged and let Walter throw a bullpen session at the next practice, which was a nerve-racking chance to prove Walter could throw at the Division I level.
“I was definitely nervous because I felt like my first impression had to be good,” Walter said. “I didn't want to mess up my shot at pitching because I love it.”
She showcased her curveball, drop ball, changeup and screwball, and Bump added her to the rotation. She pitched 19 innings in 2022, recording an 0-2 record with a 3.68 ERA. During the offseason, while continuing to work on her approach to slapping, Walter scrapped her screwball and fine-tuned her changeup based on Bump’s recommendations. What ensued has become one of the best seasons of anyone in the America East at both the plate and in the circle.
To this day, Walter still practices in the batting cage at her childhood home. It’s where she developed her skills both in the circle and as a hitter. It’s where she’s practiced since she was a kid, and now, it’s where she works to improve as one of the nation’s best dual-threat softball players.
“I've always wanted to do both,” Walter said.