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Softball has solidified its place as a popular game in America, as well as abroad. With its different styles, e.g. fastpitch or slowpitch, manufacturers have hurried to develop and introduce equipment designed to meet demands of games played with a ball that is softer than a baseball.
To determine what are the best softball bats, one must take into consideration how fast pitches are tossed to batters, the size of the ball, and what the hitter wants and expects out of his or bat. Here’s our look at the best softball bats for either style of play.
- 1 Summary
- 2 Who Needs a Softball Bat?
- 3 Differences Between Fastpitch and Slowpitch Softball Bats
- 4 What to Look for with Softball Bats
- 5 Our Suggestions: Best Bats for Fastpitch Softball
- 5.1 1. Best Softball Bat for Fastpitch Softball Overall ~ Louisville Slugger LXT Fastpitch Softball Bat Series
- 5.2 2. Best Softball Bat for Fastpitch Softball on a Budget ~ Easton Topaz Fastpitch Softball Bat
- 5.3 3. Best Softball Bat for Fastpitch Softball Youth Leagues ~ DeMarini Zenith Fastpitch Softball Bat
- 5.4 4. Best Softball Bat for Fastpitch Softball Experimentation ~ Axe Bat Danielle Lawrie Fastpitch Bat
- 6 Our Suggestions II: Best Bats for Slowpitch Softball
- 6.1 1. Best Softball Bat for Slowpitch Softball Overall ~ Easton Hammer Slowpitch Softball Bat
- 6.2 2. Best Softball Bat for Slowpitch Softball for Utility ~ Miken Chaos Slowpitch Softball Bat Series
- 6.3 3. Best Softball Bat for Slowpitch Softball for Durability ~ Worth Krecher XL
- 6.4 4. Best Slowpitch Softball Bat for the Very Serious Players ~ Miken DC 41 Supermax Slowpitch Softball Bat
- 6.5 5. Best Slowpitch Softball Bat for Seniors ~ Axe Bat Avenge SSUSA Senior Slowpitch Bat
- 7 Related Questions
- We agree with an impressive number of positive user reviews for the Louisville Slugger 2022 LXT Fastpitch Softball Bat Series, which infuses high technology to deliver great results.
- We are also impressed with the Easton Topaz Fastpitch Softball Bat, a solid and affordable fastpitch bat from a premier maker of softball bats.
- Looking for a bat for youth fastpitch softball? Consider the DeMarini Zenith Fastpitch Softball Bat, which is designed precisely for that type of use.
- Players who want to hit like the greatest girls in the game should look closely at Axe Bat Danielle Lawrie Fastpitch Bat, with its very unique handle knob.
- You can’t find a bat more packed with superb features for an affordable price than the Easton Hammer Slow Pitch Softball Bat and its advanced-materials barrel.
- Those concerned with whether or not a new bat will be allowed for play in their league should take a peek at the Miken Chaos Slowpitch Softball Bat Series.
- If having a bat that will last is the top consideration, then the Worth Krecher XL and its spacecraft-worthy carbon fiber is for you.
- The Miken DC 41 Supermax Slowpitch Softball Bat is our choice for very serious slowpitch players in need of the most serious stick.
- We suggest the Axe Bat Avenge SSUSA Senior Slowpitch Bat. for older players ~ the very first bat specially engineered for slowpitch play by seniors.
Softball is played beginning as young as age 4 (for fastpitch), up to any adult able to run a little (for slowpitch; slowpitch leagues generally use age 16 as the youngest age for adult recreational leagues).
Every player needs to use a softball bat, because using baseball bats is not allowed by rule. However, not all players purchase bats, as other players usually are fine with teammates borrowing their sticks, or leagues provide “team bats” for all to use.
Those who buy their own softball bats are dissatisfied with their performance, or with the choices they have had in game play. Some may believe investing in the newest-model bat made of space-age materials with the most modern of features will make them hit better.
Perhaps bats can make batters hit better, maybe they can’t. Another angle to buying your own bat is not necessarily to hit harder and farther, but to make contact more consistently. Those goals ~ hitting for power and hitting for a high average ~ often command different styles of bats.
The styles of bat are further developed for the fastpitch or slowpitch versions of softball play. There are bats more apt for contact hitting, and still others designed specifically to make the ball travel further or faster.
Softball players, whether in the fastpitch or slowpitch style, over time develop styles of hitting, where they typically figure out which weight and length of bat to use. Often they learn to appreciate a particular material (like carbon fiber), grip, knob, or more. Some softball players just like bats that look cool.
Differences Between Fastpitch and Slowpitch Softball Bats
Baseball came first, so there is no chicken-or-the-egg debate. The first softball bat is said to have surfaced in the 1880s. Major League Baseball began at least a decade before, and amateur baseball has been around since at least the end of the 18th century.
The games are very similar in most ways. However, in certain areas they most definitely differ:
- Size of balls. Anyone who has played softball probably knows, they are anything but soft. What they are is larger, and heavier, than baseballs, and yes a little softer. In youth softball the ball may be smaller in circumference through age 10, depending on the league and division.
- Velocity of pitches. Fastpitch softball pitches arrive to batters much faster, thrown with an underhand, windmill-like, fast circling motion of the arm. These pitches arrive on a “line,” or without an arc. Slowpitch softball pitches arrive to home plate in an arc, either flying above the batter’s head, or (in some “modified pitch” leagues) through a strike zone. The speed of pitches impacts how softball bats are shaped (more on that below).
- Field Size. Baseballs travel farther than softballs and thus baseball fields are bigger. In the outfield maybe not so much. But softball is played on 60-foot base paths, while top-level baseball features base paths of 90 feet. The top distance to home plate for baseball pitchers is 60 feet, 6 inches; for softball it’s the 46 feet of top college play.
- Speed of play. Due to the shorter distances between bases, and the pitcher’s rubber to home plate, fastpitch softball is considered a “faster” game. There is more bunting and base stealing in fastpitch softball than in baseball. The shortness of base paths can demand special gloves that work for softball but not baseball.
Whether or not a fastpitch bat can be used for slowpitch softball, and vice versa, depends on the rules of the league or organization governing the play. In theory, any bat could be used in either style as long as they meet requirements regarding size, weight, and material.
While it is doable to use a fastpitch bat in slowpitch, we don’t advise it. Bats are designed for either one, either to speed up swings, or add oomph to slowpitch play where batters can kind of wind up like Bugs Bunny to increase torque and power.
If opposing pitchers notice a batter using a wrong-style bat, he or she could take advantage of it by throwing accordingly. Smart pitchers will know how to pitch inside, outside, high or low depending on the batter and the stick used.
Plus, the performance of the bats would suffer. Stick with bats designed specifically for which style of softball play.
Finally, some hitters like to customize their bats in legal ways, usually when it comes to the grip. Some players tape the heck out of the handle (and even the knob!) and if you’re one of those players keep it in mind when buying new bats. Some might carry premium prices for the knob, handle or grip already provided.
Please remember that significant customization of softball bats, like painting them, or etching a name into a barrel, can make them illegal. Even if your league’s rules allow something doesn’t mean an unknowing umpire won’t toss the bat out of a game.
If you’re tinkering with a bat, don’t do anything to it to attract attention. Also, be careful. Tinkering with things like the end cap of metal bats can damage them beyond repair.
What to Look for with Softball Bats
Starting the process to buy a new softball bat, first think about the Why?
- Is it for a player brand new to the game?
- Is it to replace a broken bat?
- Is it to get a bigger bat? (Typical in youth softball as players grow)
- Is it to get a lighter bat?
- To get a longer bat?
- To hit with more power?
- To make better contact?
- To hit at all?
The list could be longer, but you get the point. Going into the process knowing your goals and desires makes looking for softball bats easier. We’ll match the questions above with details to look for in a new softball bat:
- Weight. For most hitters this is the single biggest factor in a bat. Too heavy and a hitter swings late especially on fast pitches; too light and you swing early resulting in misses or pop-ups. Stronger players might go for heavier bats with hope of gaining enough bat speed to get the barrel through the hitting zone and hopefully add power. However, for most players, a too-heavy bat makes hitting harder ~ sometimes very much so.
Overall, slowpitch bats are heavier, from 25 ounces and up to 30 ounces or a little more. This is because the ball is arriving slower, giving hitters more time to generate and complete a swing properly and get the bat barrel through the hitting zone (e.g. over and through home plate). Fastpitch bats usually weigh from 23 to 28 ounces, to “speed up” the swing for fast-arriving pitches.
- Length. With bats, you might hear seasoned players or coaches ask, “What size? 33-30?” They’ll say that last part like it’s some kind of code. It’s not. It just denotes the length, followed by the weight of the bat. A softball bat 33 inches long is probably a bit short for slow pitch softball; but quite okay for teen and adult fastpitch play. The real considerations for length are, is it too long and therefore will it hurt the swing a la too-heavy bats? And, can the bat cover the entirety of home plate (strike zone)? Fastpitch catchers might see a bat that is too short and tell the pitcher to throw outside away from the batter, making pitches a lot harder to hit well.
- Shape. Slowpitch bats are shaped like baseball bats, only with thinner barrels. Fastpitch bats usually have longer barrels, making them look more like bottles on the end of the handle. This is to provide more barrel surface to hit fast-moving inside pitches, something slow pitch batters do not have to contend with.
- Material. What the bat is made of usually makes a difference. Hardly anyone uses wood bats any longer for any type of softball. In fact, the popularity of then-called “aluminum bats” started in the 1970s with softball (the company Worth was instrumental in their widespread usage), primarily the significant growth of slowpitch for adults. Now they’re called metal bats and most are not aluminum but some kind of space-age alloy, or a mixture. Some metals make bats more durable, others are supposed to boost performance (e.g. hit balls harder, or farther). Note that softball organizations will have rules to govern which types of bats are allowed, or disallowed, like the formerly popular titanium. Bat materials and construction are regulated, for the safety of players on the field.
- Style. It’s not that there are many choices here, but bats today come in 1-piece, 2-piece, or even 3-piece styles. Bats made of a single piece of material are stiffer and are known to hit balls with more oomph. Plus, there is no joint (where the pieces meet) prone to breakage. The 2-piece variety might be an alloy for the barrel but aluminum in the handle to shave weight, and these are usually better for control and contact.
- Handle/Knob. This is actually the area where “style” could be important for performance. Many batters prefer a thinner handle, or even maybe thicker, just because they feel more comfortable with it. Most softball bats come with a fairly uniform handle, but some models purposely shave or pad that size. Thin handles generally are preferred by power hitters; thick handles for control or contact hitters. Some bat knobs are tapered, resembling a funnel, while others are shaped like the typical doughnut. (Axe brand bats have a handle shaped like, well, an ax handle).
- Brand. Well-established brands are more likely to have more user reviews to check out online, and are more likely to offer warranties on their new products. Good softball bat brands have reputations for reinvesting in the product, that is, to spend money on research and development. Easton, for instance, has a reputation of doing this. But it is not the only major brand to do so. Other notable softball bat brands include DeMarini, Louisville Slugger, Worth, Rawlings, Marucci, and Axe Bat.
- Reputation. Of the brand, and the model. See above for the importance of a softball bat’s brand. In terms of reputation, many over the years have reached near cult-status. Some really old famous softball bat models can still be found in dugouts around the world.
- Endorsements. Some softball bats are actually used by amateur or even professional softball players, if that’s important to a player. For fastpitch this means USA national (Olympic) team players, or stars for major universities they may see on television.
1. Best Softball Bat for Fastpitch Softball Overall ~ Louisville Slugger LXT Fastpitch Softball Bat Series
For very serious fastpitch softball hitters, price is hardly the top consideration for their stick. With that in mind, we lead off with the Louisville Slugger LXT Fastpitch Softball Bat Series. Hitters judging bats solely on features and performance can’t go wrong with this model.
If you research it, you’ll find check marks next to most every element you want in a bat, from a barrel’s sweet spot to its handle grip, and weight balance. Don’t be confused by all the acronyms; user reviews indicate all that high technology infused into this bat mean superb results.
Maybe the biggest advantage of this bat model is its larger sweet spot, which Louisville Slugger attributes to a manufacturing process (which the company has patented) known as PBF Technology. This is Powder Bed Fusion, a painstaking layer-by-layer construction known for application in the medical and aerospace fields. If you want the most modern advancements in your bat, the LTX is for you.
Handle/Knob: Extra flex between the barrel and handle to significantly reduce vibration
Special Feature: PBF technology patent means there are no duplicates on the market
What We Like
- Larger sweet spot on barrel is designed well for the quickness of the fastpitch game
- Impressive sound on contact, a sometimes overlooked attraction for young and college players alike
- 1-year limited warranty
2. Best Softball Bat for Fastpitch Softball on a Budget ~ Easton Topaz Fastpitch Softball Bat
At the other end of the price spectrum, we are very impressed with the Easton Topaz Fastpitch Softball Bat. This is a premier maker of bats for softball play, and we appreciate that the manufacturer straight-out put “fastpitch” in the model’s name. They see no need to try to fool some slowpitch players here.
Make no mistake, this bat was designed for fast-pitched softballs. While this model might not carry one of those fancy acronyms mentioned above, it does involve an alloy that Easton promotes as military-grade. Think about it: they made a bat out of material used to fend off bullets and bombs to protect human life. How cool is that?
Easton is known for testing its products with real-life hitters, so most every player will like the little things here, like an ultra-thin handle with padding and all-weather grip, or a concave end cap to enhance weight balance toward the ultimate goal of a perfect swing. We love all these features, especially at this price point.
Material(s): Aluminum alloy
Handle/Knob: Ultra-thin cushioned grip
Special Feature: ALX50 military-grade aluminum alloy used
What We Like
- Solidly built using a very strong and durable aluminum alloy material
- Trust for softball with the Easton brand
- Thin handle and concave end cap for balance
3. Best Softball Bat for Fastpitch Softball Youth Leagues ~ DeMarini Zenith Fastpitch Softball Bat
Repeating what’s been said in past reviews, we are impressed with the bat models delivered by DeMarini, for both fastpitch and slowpitch. We remain impressed with the DeMarini Zenith Fastpitch Softball Bat, for a number of reasons.
What is notable with the Zenith is how the manufacturer engineered and designed the bat for youth softball play. It’s refreshing to see a bat maker that doesn’t just fold little learning players into the entire pool of softball players. Younger fastpitch players have different needs than those players we can watch on television.
With that, DeMarini focused on a light weight, for faster swings. It also tips its cap to something that could nudge young hitters to other sports: the vibration or sting after mis-hits. This neat 2-piece design lets the alloy barrel do the power work, while the hands remain protected around a specialized handle. Your little player will appreciate this, trust us.
Material(s): DX1 alloy
Handle/Knob: TP Handle to reduce contact vibration
Special Feature: Big D end cap to add to what’s noted above, vibration reduction
What We Like
- Alloy barrel for great strength and durability
- Very solid user reviews
- 1-year limited warranty
4. Best Softball Bat for Fastpitch Softball Experimentation ~ Axe Bat Danielle Lawrie Fastpitch Bat
Sometimes a young fastpitch softball player will become frustrated because, despite trying all kinds of changes, they can’t quite hit well. At this point (or hopefully sooner), a young player might benefit by trying out an Axe Bat Danielle Lawrie Fastpitch Bat, with its unique handle that may change how swings finish.
Ever look at the end of an ax and think, “that little curvy design won’t prevent it from slipping out of your hands.” Yet … somehow it works. There is something to be said about how well that type of handle, not in the typical donut style, can change a swing for the better. We think it’s all in the wrists and how they snap on contact, but each batter feels differently.
Along with the ax-like handle, this bat model comes with a premium alloy barrel, and an engineered balanced-swing weight. Adding further to the focus on weight, the manufacturer adds what it calls the HyperWhip End Cap, to reduce weight and therefore speed up swings.
Coupled with the distinct handle, all this can add up to a totally different experience hitting for young players. It’s hyped by one of the best fastpitch players around, so it must present at least some benefits. We feel some young hitters will love the more stable grip, and feel through the swing and follow through, with this model.
Handle/Knob: Knob like that on an ax you chop wood with
Special Feature: That handle
What We Like
- An alternative bat grip feel with the unique ax handle, open for experimentation with swings and wrist snapping
- Attractive pricing
- Endorsement by 2-time National Player of the Year Danielle Lawrie
1. Best Softball Bat for Slowpitch Softball Overall ~ Easton Hammer Slowpitch Softball Bat
Easton is very well known for its softball bats, especially for those designed for top-level slowpitch play. The Easton Hammer Slow Pitch Softball Bat delivers on all the power points of previous models by the brand, at an acceptable price point especially attractive to the recreational player. Which is most players.
By experience, Easton knows most of its bats will not be purchased by those traveling, tournament-hopping madmen who play at the highest levels of slow pitch softball. Sure, those players could, as Easton delivers solid bats. However, the Hammer is designed specifically for adults to use in playing recreational and (moderately) competitive slowpitch.
This bat is well end-loaded and designed to add pop. Easton uses terms like “maximizes bat speed,” and experienced hitters know exactly what that infers. Adding to the quality of the barrel is a thin handle and excellent grip with padding for comfort. There’s much to like with this bat model.
Material(s): Aluminum alloy
Handle/Knob: Ultra-thin with padded all-weather grip
Special Feature: ALX50 military grade aluminum alloy design to speed up swings, and enlarge sweet spots
What We Like
- Military-grade aluminum alloy barrel for strength and durability
- Ultra-thin handle and cushioned, all-weather grip
- Peace of mind with Easton brand quality
2. Best Softball Bat for Slowpitch Softball for Utility ~ Miken Chaos Slowpitch Softball Bat Series
Bumping up just a bit in price, we very much appreciate the Miken Chaos Slowpitch Softball Bat Series. Among many features attractive with this bat model is that it is certified by darn near every organization regulating softball play, so it’s an excellent choice for players participating in multiple leagues.
Add to that Miken’s ever-growing reputation for performance. Note the thin inner walls of the barrel designed for power; and add to it the half-ounce end load and 14-inch barrel length. The half ounce at the end may seem trivial, but users say it’s just enough for a serious whip through the strike zone.
User feedback online says much: “Although it isn’t a composite bat it acts like one”; “Well balanced and has some serious pop”; “Great for placing the ball, well balanced.”
I like the slight end-load, whips through the zone
Handle/Knob: Polyurethane 10-inch grip
Special Feature: Eflez Technology alloy composition
What We Like
- Called “All Association” since it is certified for use in every type of softball organization we know
- Flex ability in barrel due to distinct alloy material
- 1-year manufacturer’s warranty
3. Best Softball Bat for Slowpitch Softball for Durability ~ Worth Krecher XL
Our next suggestion is from the company that first brought aluminum bats to the masses. The Worth Krecher XL is made of carbon fiber, which in terms of weight ratios is stronger than steel. So right off the bat, you can check durability off your list. The Krecher is made of stuff they use on spacecraft.
As with other top slowpitch softball bats, the Krecher adds some end load but not too much ~ a half-ounce ~ to help with torque to add power to hits. The added barrel mass is designed to increase how far balls will fly.
Where Worth may have hit a home run is where the hands go. The Flex 50 Handle has an ultra-thin tube for easy grip, plus it is designed well with the separate-piece barrel to allow for some flex upon impact which helps square up balls better. The Opti-Grip Knob at the bottom is a little smaller than what you usually see on bats and it just makes holding the bat that much more comfortable.
Material(s): Carbon fiber
Handle/Knob: Thin handle, Opti Grip knob
Special Feature: Flex 50 Handle
What We Like
- Focus on transfer of energy from handle to barrel
- Great design of places where hands grip: thin handle and smaller knob
- 1-year manufacturer’s warranty
4. Best Slowpitch Softball Bat for the Very Serious Players ~ Miken DC 41 Supermax Slowpitch Softball Bat
Very serious slowpitch softball players who’ve been around and know all about the details of softball bats will probably appreciate the Miken DC 41 Supermax Slowpitch Softball Bat. It’s almost like they bumped up the benefits of each feature at least a little here.
It’s kind of like the amplifier volume knob in the movie “This is Spinal Tap” that went from 1 to 11. Why 11 and not 10 like every other amplifier. Because 11 is more than 10, that’s why. That’s kind of how we feel about the DC 41. Look no further than the full 1-ounce endload, which you might notice is more than any other bat on our list here.
But if you’re really wondering why this softball bat is a bit pricey, look at the materials used especially in the barrel ~ which by the way is 14 inches worth of ball-crushing aluminum. The barrel flex is about as high quality as you’ll find, with Miken’s own F2P Barrel Flex Technology.
Handle/Knob: Comfort-soft synthetic grip
Special Feature: 1 oz. endload
What We Like
- 14-inch barrel composed of high-tech materials
- F2P Barrel Flex Technology
- 1-year manufacturer’s limited warranty
5. Best Slowpitch Softball Bat for Seniors ~ Axe Bat Avenge SSUSA Senior Slowpitch Bat
We would almost feel remiss if we didn’t include the first-ever bat designed specifically for older players, the Axe Bat Avenge SSUSA Senior Slowpitch Bat. The company says it took 5 years to deliver the Avenge SSUSA to market, and we think senior citizen players will appreciate what it offers their game.
Consider: The Charged Carbon Tri-Flex Barrel delivers a bit of additional pop as well as a boost in durability; a special Vibration Cancellation System to protect older hands; and the HyperWhip End Cap cuts weight and allows for a faster swing.
The New Power Gap barrel technology features a thin gap of air between a double-wall construction, which allows improved performance and harder hitting. And finally there’s the company’s different ax-shaped handle, which is said to boost exit velocity, increased launch angle, and an estimated 22 feet of additional distance.
Handle/Knob: Ax handle-shaped knob with carbon fiber handle
Special Feature: Vibration Canceling System (VCS)
What We Like
- Engineered for more optimal contact at all times
- Advanced shock-absorbing materials to reduce vibration
- Power Gap barrel technology
Question: What is the negative number stamped on bats?
Answer: This denotes the drop weight, which is more typical of fastpitch bats though it also might be stamped on bats used for slowpitch. A drop weight is the difference between the length of the bat minus the weight. So a -10 bat maybe 33 inches long, and weigh 23 ounces. The bigger the number, the more of an advantage it gives the hitter, which is a reason many softball leagues and divisions regulate bats in terms of drop weights.
Q.: Where do we find regulations on which softball bats we’re allowed to use?
A.: Find out which organization your league is affiliated with, and in effect agrees to abide by that organization’s rules. It could be 1 of many, such as the Amateur Softball Association (ASA), United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), National Softball Association (NSA), Independent Softball Association (ISA), International Softball Federation (ISF), or even the Senior Softball USA (SSUSA). Local leagues typically adopt the bat-size and -material regulations of their affiliated organization; plus leagues might add on their own regulations. It’s best to check with the league you will be participating in.
Q.: Can you use a softball bat for baseball?
A.: No, you cannot use a softball bat for baseball, for a number of reasons. (That’s not entirely true for baseball and softball gloves). It also is not advisable to use a baseball fungo bat for softball.