As we welcome the warmer spring weather our attention begins to turn to the baseball diamond where players, coaches and parents are all gearing up for the start of a new softball season. For those who play in fastpitch softball leagues, this is the perfect time to take inventory of what equipment you have and what you will need to purchase, as many manufacturers have sales before the season begins to promote new arrivals. This year is no exception, as there are a plethora of interesting options for those looking for a new fastpitch softball bat. Before we jump into our top choices this year, let’s go over a few essentials when it comes to fastpitch softball bats.
What Makes A Fastpitch Softball Bat Unique?
For newcomers to the game of softball, one of the first questions on their mind might be what is the main difference between fastpitch and slowpitch, and how do the bats differ? Slowpitch hitters receive the ball on a lob (or gentle arc), while fastpitch batters have to hit pitches coming in straight, sometimes as high as 70-80 miles per hour. Because of these differing speeds of pitches, the bats used in slowpitch are very different than those wielded in fastpitch.Fastpitch bats are generally much lighter than slowpitch bats, as they need to be swung quickly and cannot afford to be too heavy. They are usually also shorter to compensate for the lack of weight. You will see a length to weight ratio in the range of -8 to -13, with the shorter ones often found in leagues with younger players. Males in adult leagues might use a bat with a length of 34”, which would be standard amongst most other bats. Most barrel sizes are 2.25”, making them slightly smaller than what you might find in a BBCOR bat, for example.
Although fastpitch bats are usually used by youth or women, there has been a trend towards more and more men using fastpitch bats as they are able to generate better bat speed with the lighter swing weights. No longer are these seen exclusively in youth and ladies leagues, especially as the popularity of modified slowpitch leagues grows.
What Should I Look For In A Fastpitch Softball Bat?
Historically fastpitch softball bats were primarily made of aluminum construction, with a trademark ‘ping’ sound coming from any balls hit off the bat. These days, we’re seeing almost a full migration to composite alloy construction as it offers improved durability (less dents) and performance (more pop and power on hits). Composite bats are more susceptible to cracks, however, so one must be careful using these bats in colder weather. There are some hybrid models that use both aluminum and composite materials, and these aim to combined the best of both metals into one powerful bat. Deciding on the material is an important factor before choosing out your fastpitch softball bat.
Another consideration before picking up a bat is to see what associations it is approved in.
You’ll be able to spot a stamp on the barrel of the bat that will tell you what leagues it is (and is not) allowed to be used in.
Product Reviews - Which Is Right For You?
Below we profile 5 options from 5 different manufacturers, all worth considering when it comes to purchasing a fastpitch softball bat this year:
First up on our list is the Xeno from Louisville Slugger, which was a very popular choice amongst fastpitch softball players in 2016. This year’s version promises more of the same great features that won over fans in the past, including the S1iD barrel that has a dynamic dual-wall design for added power. A stiffer feel than past copies, but still with great barrel flex and the trademark large sweetspot. A great choice for any fastpitch softball player who is looking for a powerful, durable bat.
- S1iD barrel with 2-wall design to provide maximum trampoline effect upon impact.
- Two-piece connection uses iST technology to reduce hand stinging and causes the bat to swing a bit stiffer.
- Concave end-cap contains energy within the barrel of the bat.
- On the expensive end, may not be suitable for players with lower budgets.
A great bat for those who can afford it, the Xeno has huge pop and power without sacrificing durability. One of the best options for a fastpitch softball bat this year.
The CF9 from DeMarini is next up on the list and it is guaranteed to be a crowd favorite. The Paraflex composite construction reduces the weight of the CF9 without losing any performance, all while maintaining durability (apparently the carbon fiber construction is 22% stronger than prior versions). The large sweetspot on the CF9 is difficult to miss, and the D-Fusion handle (version 2.0) keeps the energy in the barrel and not on your hands.
- 2.0 D-Fusion handle transfers contact into the barrel without losing any bat speed.
- Very balanced feel compared to prior versions.
- Large sweetspot.
- Paraflex technology introduces stronger carb construction in the composite barrel.
- Drop weighting of -11 may be too light for some users.
- Even with strengthened carbon fibers, durability a concern.
The CF9 is a formidable choice for those looking for a fastpitch softball bat, as it will instill a lot of confidence in young hitters once they start hitting bombs. With a large sweetspot and a balanced feel, it’s going to be seen quite often on the diamonds this summer.
Easton’s prime 2017 offering is the Stealth Flex fastpitch softball bat, which features a -10 drop length-weight ratio and the same Thermo Composite Technology (TCT) that has become so popular with all their latest models. This year’s version is slightly different as the barrel flexes a bit more than past copies, which give it more power and pop. They’ve also increased barrel compression by 15% in order to add to the pop.
- TCT (Thermo Composite Technology) barrel construction creates more flex and a larger sweetspot that is difficult to miss.
- CXN ZERO technology to reduce hand sting and unwanted vibration on mishits.
- 29/32” thin handle is suitable for even the youngest hitters.
- Balanced swing, no end-load.
- Some may not like the Hyperskin grip.
This bat was featured heavily in last year’s Women’s College World Series, and it’s easy to see why once we take a look at the 2017 version. A dynamite bat that is sure to please coaches and players, as the results will speak for themselves.
The Rocketech 2.0 is the first bat on this list that is not made of composite material, but rather of aerospace alloy (premium grade). It swings lighter (or feels that way) than its composite counterparts, and features a large sweetspot that is hot right out of the wrapper from day one. Anderson has always been at the forefront of pushing the envelope on aluminum bat design, and the latest version of the Rocketech 2.0 is no exception.
- High-end aluminum construction means the bat is very light.
- Slight end-load.
- Incredibly durable, hard to dent or crack.
- Minimal break-in time, hot out of the wrapper.
- AB-9000 Power Arch barrel.
- Lightweight end cap to keep energy contained within barrel.
- Distance-wise may pale in comparison to composite bats.
A wonderful aluminum bat that you should not be afraid to take out and use in any climate, any weather. Where other composite bats would dent or develop flat spots, the Rocketech 2.0 can be used late into the year when jackets are required. A true ‘all-season’ bat.
Last but certainly not least is the Quatro from Rawlings, a -10 fastpitch bat that is certified for play in all associations. It swings very balanced (no endload) and has a unique 4-piece construction. The composite barrel features a sweetspot that may not be as large as others on this list, but packs perhaps the strongest punch of all. Compared to the CF9 and the much heralded Easton Mako, the Quatro went nose-to-nose with them in terms of pure pop and power. Silicone infused handle results in an ultra soft feel on contact that is easy on the hands.
- Very hot out of wrapper, huge pop.
- Balanced swing, flex handle that transfers energy into the loaded barrel.
- Handle is infused with silicone to reduce hand stinging on mishit balls.
- Smaller sweetspot than others on the list.
- Some durability concerns.
One of the best options if you’re looking for raw power as the Quatro absolutely crushes pitches if you line up the sweetspot correctly. Be sure to put it away for the winter as there have been some concerns about durability. Be prepared to pay a pretty penny, as the Quatro does not come cheap.
Some terrific options on this list from five different manufacturers, and all worthy of consideration as you shop for a new fastpitch softball bat this season. It comes down to what you feel will perform the best for you, but we really like the Quatro and are excited to take it out onto the diamond this year and see what it can do.