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Youth baseball bats come in all kinds of forms and price ranges, but probably the most important thing to look for first is, What type of play is the bat made for? Big for advancing young baseball players is what is commonly called “U-Triple S-A,” or “U-trip” for short.
We wondered about the best baseball bats for play governed by the United States Specialty Sports Association, or USSSA, for 2023 and beyond. Let’s begin with this: You know the bat is approved for play in affiliated leagues if it is stamped with the USSSA logo.
There are other designations, like USA Baseball, or PONY Baseball, or even the broad BBCOR (which unofficially means for high school play and above). Check with your league to see which organization it is affiliated with, then shop for youth baseball bats accordingly.
- It is difficult to look much past the Marucci CAT9 Connect USSSA Bat as the best you’ll find for youth play from tee-ball all the way up to pre-high school levels.
- For a model from a relatively new manufacturer, we are mightily impressed with the Victus NOX USSSA Baseball Bat, which already is attracting rave reviews from users
- This manufacturer has produced plenty of high-quality bats, so we weren’t surprised at all with the excellence of the DeMarini Uprising USSSA Baseball Bat.
- We really like the comfort features built into the Louisville Slugger Meta Baseball Bat, not always easy to do with a 3-piece.
- Parents of brand-new ballplayers can’t really go wrong with the Rawlings 5150 USSSA Baseball Bat, with its affordable price and super-light weight.
- The Easton Hype Baseball Bat, is our fave for players transitioning from pitches from coaches or machines to tosses from other kids.
- The Axe Avenge Pro Baseball Bat gets our nod as the most improved model from its previous version (which was pretty good to begin with)
All players in youth and what are sometimes called senior leagues (divisions for teens pre-high school), who are signed up to participate under the rules of the United States Specialty Sports Association, more often called USSSA.
To participate in USSSA-affiliated games, hitters can only use bats with a 1.15 BPF USSSA stamp; or have a certified .50 BBCOR stamp (-3 drop weight); or be a wood bat. All bats must have a barrel no bigger than 2¾ inches, and be manufactured by an approved USSSA manufacturer.
Experienced baseball players understand that a bat really can boost how well you hit. It’s not necessarily about batting average or other hitting stats, which can be impacted by luck (as in, hit near a slow defender who couldn’t get to the ball).
However, there is a universal truism for veteran baseball hitters: the harder you hit the ball, the more hits you will get.
A bat manufactured nicely with the right weight and dimensions, made of quality materials, can help batters absolutely annihilate baseball. The best help reduces the reliance on luck; by making balls bounce off bats faster.
Modern technological advancements in the type of metals applied to bats, such as aluminum, or “alloy” bats, makes choosing among new baseball bats more difficult.
Lists of the best baseball bats change every year, with the release of new or improved models, especially by the big brands such as Easton, Rawlings, Marucci, DeMarini, and Louisville Slugger.
Note: Bats approved for USA Baseball play are allowed for use in USSSA play. However, the USSSA does not recommend this, because regulations for USA Baseball games are more strict when it comes to bats. That is, USSSA-certified bats are expected to perform better, e.g. hit the baseball harder and farther.
Some bats have been banned. You can check for these by visiting the USSSA Banned Bats List.
1. Best USSSA Baseball Bat Overall ~ Marucci CAT9 Connect USSSA Bat
The manufacturer says “designed for excellence,” and we agree that the Marucci CAT9 Connect USSSA Bat is something special. The thermally (3-part process) treated and strengthened AZR alloy barrel is a drop drawing point, among many fine attributes.
That high-quality alloy barrel is connected to a carbon composite handle which provides a feel of real power on impact. Marucci engages a special outer locking system to stiffen the tool at contact, and reduce almost all vibration on contact. Hitters won’t be afraid to swing hard at any pitch with the Connect.
You get a bigger sweet spot than most metal bats on the market, with no dead spots really, at a decent price for the quality and reputation of the brand. There are many versions of the CAT 9, so take your pick among different drop weights, colors, and more.
Editor’s Note: Marucci has released a follow-up to the CAT9, the CATX, but as of publication of this article not enough user feedback was available to include on this list.
- Material(s): Aluminum alloy
- Style: 2-piece hybrid; end-loaded
- Handle: Carbon composite; modeled after professional bats, features a removable taper
- Grip: Soft-Touch, micro-perforated with extra tack
- Special Feature: AZR allow barrel
What We Like
- Superb user ratings that remained stable even with hundreds of entries
- Ergonomically designed handle and lower grip
- 1-year warranty
2. Best USSSA Baseball Bat Runner-Up ~ Victus NOX USSSA Metal Baseball Bat
It’s not often that we push a relatively new bat manufacturer near the top, which says a lot about how impressed we are with the Victus NOX USSSA Baseball Bat. The company is only a decade old and already delivering products that generate rave reviews.
At a modest price point, the NOX is available in various drop weights (e.g. -5, -8, -10), and features a barrel made of quality, military-grade aluminum sure to impress players both new and old. The unique 2SIX (the company’s “Two Smooth Impact Connection”) connection between handle and barrel reduces vibration nicely upon impact.
For performance, look at the details about that barrel. In the threaded connection point of the handle and barrel are 2 anti-vibration rings. This threaded connection keeps the bat stiffer upon contact, maximizing the energy transferred into the ball. Nice work, Victus.
- Material(s): Alloy
- Style: 2-piece hybrid
- Handle: Carbon fiber
- Grip: Soft Touch micro-perforated
- Special Feature: Ringless barrel design
What We Like
- Multi-variable barrel wall thickness for flexible sweet spot
- Neat carbon fiber handle
- 1-year warranty
3. Best USSSA Baseball Bat for the Price ~ DeMarini Uprising USSSA Baseball Bat
This bat-maker has grown by leaps and bounds due to the quality of the models it delivers, and it’s no different with the DeMarini Uprising USSSA Baseball Bat. And at one of the most friendly price points among the models on this list, it’s hard to go wrong with an Uprising.
The fireworks here are in the special DX1 Alloy Barrel. Made of a high-strength alloy, it provides a significant pop on contact, and is well-designed for a fluid swing. DeMarini adds an ION D end cap for a swing that feels lighter, yet loses nothing in barrel performance.
What probably speaks volumes for this model is how light it feels as a 1-piece with a huge barrel. Users may believe they are dealing with a cheaper material, do not be fooled. This bat produces explosive energy transfer on contact with the baseball ~ a feeling any hitter will enjoy.
- Material(s): Alloy
- Style: 1-piece
- Special Feature: DX1 Alloy Barrel
What We Like
- Strong yet light 1-piece design
- Special focus on the end cap to protect light weight without sacrificing power
- 1- year limited warranty
4. Best USSSA Baseball Bat for Comfort ~ Louisville Slugger USSSA Meta Baseball Bat
This baseball equipment manufacturer has been producing quality sticks forever, so it’s no surprise that the Louisville Slugger Meta Baseball Bat ended up high on our list of recommendations. This model comes in at the higher end of the price scale, which did not seem to faze many buyers who dropped positive feedback.
Leading the features, as it does with most metal bat models, is that barrel. The EKO Composite Barrel is engineered in detail to boost performance. The result is a light-swinging bat, even with a large barrel profile. The company optimized the sweet spot, and you can tell.
For comfort on impact, notice the 3-piece design with the company’s VCX2 Vibration Control Connection System, a patented elastomeric point that amazingly allows independent movement between the barrel and the handle. It’s a flexibility quite unlike other models, and helps nudge this USSSA bat toward the top of our list.
- Material(s): Composite barrel
- Style: 3-piece
- Grip: Premium LS Pro Comfort Grip
- Special Feature: VCX2 Vibration Control Connection System
What We Like
- Cool barrel sound on impact
- Lack of sting on hands on contact
- 1-Year limited warranty
5. Best USSSA Baseball Bat on a Budget ~ Rawlings 5150 USSSA Baseball Bat
On this list for USSSA play specifically, the bargain is with the Rawlings 5150 USSSA Baseball Bat. The best-priced bat on our list, it’s made with plenty of quality as expected from a company that actually makes the balls used in Major League Baseball.
Note that this bat model is designed for the younger players, say age 10 and younger, machine-pitch or coach-pitch youth baseball leagues. Helping new players to make contact is a huge 2¾-inch barrel.
This is a really light baseball bat. Rawlings applied its most responsive alloy, which it terms “aerospace-grade,” to the bat for great performance along with durability. That last part is important for new parents to understand, as kids’ baseball equipment takes a horrific beating.
- Material(s): Aerospace-grade alloy
- Style: 1-piece
- Handle: Ultra-thin
- Special Feature: Hyper-Lite Speed Cap
What We Like
- Very light feel for faster swings through the hitting zone
- Awesome pricing!
- Very thin handle, good for small hands
6. Best USSSA Baseball Bat to Start Senior League ~ Easton Hype
For players just graduating from coach or machine pitching to the real thing, we suggest the Easton Hype Baseball Bat, for several reasons. If they’re playing at this age that means they’re probably committed enough to step up into the next tier of pricing ~ and this is like an entry point to a phase 2 (if there was such a thing).
User feedback on this bat is spectacular. What jumps out to us is the explosiveness for the weight. Maybe there’s an equation to affix a number on something like that, but if not, the stats gurus should look into the Hype.
This 2-piece stands out also because of what Easton did where the alloy meets the carbon of the handle. Its ConneXion Max improves the transfer of energy, with a purposely stiffer feel once the ball strikes the metal. The carbon used in the handle is more stiff than normal, adding some oomph.
- Material(s): Blend
- Style: 2-piece
- Handle: Composite, with Power Boost Soft Knob
- Grip: Flow-Tack Grip (polyurethane, Easton’s premium grip)
- Special Feature: ConneXion Max connection point
What We Like
- Really good feel at contact
- Affordable pricing for the advancing player
- 6-month extended warranty
7. Best USSSA Baseball Bat for New-Model Improvement ~ Axe Avenge Pro
This manufacturer has established itself in the bat market with a distinct knob shaped like, well, that you would see on an ax. It might seem like a novelty, but it’s not. They are actually very comfortable to use, and it’s no different on the Axe Avenge Pro Baseball Bat.
Compared with the initial generation of Avenge models, the company added 23% hotter compression from a New Charged Carbon Max composite material, meaning it’s stronger. Sticking with the numbers in its marketing, Axe points to a 13% lighter swing weight, and a barrel that’s 10% larger than its predecessor.
For connection points on this 3-piecer, Axe engages New Shock Suspension, a rather novel way of addressing an age-old problem with 2-piece bats. This suspension-like technology eases vibration at point of contact, as if the rattling gets caught in a filter.
- Material(s): Composite
- Style: 2-piece
- Special Feature: New patented Youth Axe Handle for added control and grip
What We Like
- High-tech connection point
- Large barrel
- Improved power data
Things to Look for When Buying a New USSSA Baseball Bat
Besides making sure the bat is stamped with the USSSA logo, parents and older players can look for some of the following features when trying to buy a new metal bat.
The number attached to the weight of a bat is in ounces, as in 26, 28, 30, etc., and is probably the most important consideration in buying new bats. Weight impacts the speed of the swing, and the ability by a batter to control the bat head through the part of a ball’s flight best for striking the ball. A bat too heavy results in late swings, and foul-balls; too light and the hitter swings before the ball gets there. Range generally is 25 to 26 oz. for T-ball; up to 30 to 32 ounces for high school ball; to 34 ounces and up for Major League Baseball hitters.
Modern metal bats usually come with a number with the minus sign, as in -3, -10 or -12. These would be called “drop 3,” “drop 10,” etc. It indicates the difference between the length and weight of the bat, and is important for a number of reasons, namely safety. The larger the number, the more advantageous for the hitter. Beware that almost all youth baseball leagues and organizations have limits on drop weights per age group.
In general: the larger the drop weight number (meaning skip the minus sign), the easier it is for hitters to swing faster and hit balls harder. Higher ratings are allowed in pre-high school leagues where the players aren’t quite so big and strong. As players mature, the bats usually are capped at a -3 drop weight, for safety.
A bat’s length from the knob at the bottom of the handle to the end of the barrel is important both for the comfort of the swinger, and for performance in most leagues ~ to be better able to get to outside pitches. Ensure home plate (the horizontal strike zone) is covered no matter pitch location. Know that longer bats carry more weight, which accompanied with more wind drag during the swing slows the bat head down.
Wood bats are only used in professional leagues, and where metal bats are permitted, they should be used. They just last longer and for the most part hit baseballs harder and farther. Metal bats surfaced en masse in the 1970s, then had a boom in the 1980s and 1990s. Bat makers competed to deliver models with the most-advanced metals with intent to hit balls better and harder.
Nowadays, hitters can choose among aluminum, or “alloy” (a mix of metals). In the past, bat barrels came in unusual materials like ceramic or titanium, but baseball leagues set safety regulations starting around 2011, rules that high school and college leagues must abide by.
Modern metal baseball bats are made in 1, 2 or 3 pieces ~ and not from a single piece of wood like wooden baseball bats. Bat
Manufacturers will make claims that more pieces means advantages like avoiding stings to hands on contact. Some bat makers use separate materials for the barrel and handle.
Let’s face it, kids are impressed with how their equipment looks. Make that, they get wowed by equipment other players have. They don’t want to be left out, or maybe even have a desire to lead the pack. So bat makers offer a lot of models with really bright or crazy designs.
High school and college baseball players only can use bats stamped with BBCOR which stands for Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution. This measurement indicates the “trampoline” effect of a bat upon contact with a ball. For example, the 0.50 BBCOR preferred for USSSA play means if a pitch is thrown at 100 mph at a stationary bat, the ball at impact would rebound at 50 MPH or . 50 of the thrown ball’s velocity.
It’s crucial for a parent or player to know the rules of the league to be participated in, because they have different bat regulations, such as BBCOR, USSSA, Team USA, or USA Baseball. Editor’s Note: many “bat sizing” tips and charts are available online. There is no one-size-fits-all chart.
The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), is an organization that governs youth baseball play, under its USSSA Baseball division. It is known by many for its involvement with “tournament baseball” or “travel ball,” because a majority of youth baseball tournaments nationwide use USSSA rules. The intent for the sport of baseball is to improve opportunities for teams to play in both leagues and tournaments anywhere in the world.
Question: Why are all wood bats allowed?
Answer: Wood bats are allowed in every level of baseball all the way up to Major League Baseball. The reason is they are made of a natural material, without any treatment to make them hit balls harder and faster. Metal bats are highly regulated for safety reasons. Metal bat regulations increased due to a series of serious injuries to pitchers and defensive players leading up to 2011.
Q.: What is the Senior League?
A.: In the past this may have referred to an age level for teen-agers, or older players transitioning into high school ball. Today it’s not true for USSSA bats, which might include “Senior League” in the model name for use by younger players. These bats are made for players in what are called “kid-pitch” leagues. (As opposed to the Junior Big Barrel Bats which are supposed to be used only in leagues where coaches or machines pitch to batters). Generally “Senior League” refers to bats acceptable for both USSSA and USA Baseball.
Q.: Why all the rules and regulations on bats?
A.: Only on metal bats, because of a tendency of manufacturers in the first decade of the 21st century to create bats so technologically advanced that they let batters hit baseballs faster than other players could react to. Basically, bats were “trampolining” baseballs off bat barrels much faster than regular wood bats (which are hardly regulated). The reason was injuries: pitchers are only about 55 feet away once they release the ball, and infielders are pretty close, too. A lot of players were suffering head injuries from balls batted with these Frankenstein bats.
Q.: What types of bats are banned by USSSA?
A.: Usually it’s because the manufacturer fussed around with the drop weight, or failed to report it accurately, such as stamping -3 on the bat when in reality it’s a -5. You might chuckle at the names of some new bat-making companies and their banned bats: Stinger Missile II, Mattingly Balistk, Ghost, Zen, etc. In fact, the DeMarini CF Zen was banned in 2017, but got reinstated to be legal the following year.