Softball season is quickly approaching. Are you sure that you have the right bat to become the best player on the team?
Whether it’s for yourself, your daughter or another family member, you should always make sure you have the best softball bats in your bag because having a great bat can help put some extra pop in your hits and thereby build your confidence at the plate.
Softball Bat Buying Guide
If you’re new to softball, picking out the right bat can be difficult. It requires a lot more than just going to the store and picking out the first thing you see.
You have to consider what type of bat you want, what length you should get, and how much the bat should weigh.
As you reach more advanced leagues, you may also need to consider taper and grip and specific performance-enhancing features.
These are the minor things that can decide what is “a bat” and what is “your bat”.
It may not seem like much, but fractions of an inch can be the difference between just getting a piece of the ball and getting the whole darn thing.
Let’s start with a few warnings about what you should avoid:
First, you should never pick a bat based on what it looks like. A bat may look nice, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good bat.
In fact, I’d be willing to bet that a number of companies create “pretty” bats in order to sell them for just that reason.
If you are really hung up on the look, there are a few high-end bat manufacturers, like DeMarini, that allow you to customize all of the colors on the bat, for an added price.
Next, you should avoid buying a bat just because it’s popular with teammates. A bat that everyone likes doesn’t mean that it’s a good bat for you.
Using a team bat is a good way to get a feel for something different, but it shouldn’t be the only reason you’re purchasing a bat.
Finally, be sure you find a bat that is the right weight. Often the weight of your bat depends on your size; we’ll get into that in a bit.
The first thing to consider when purchasing a bat is what type of bat you want. In other words, what materials were used in the bats construction.
There are three types of bats that you can get:
- an aluminum/alloy bat,
- a hybrid bat,
- a composite bat.
You can find a good bat with any of these materials. Typically, the choice of material is simple player preference.
Some people like the sound of one above the other; sometimes it is the feel and responsiveness.
No matter the case, you may want to look at each and make a decision for yourself, with regards to the material that fits your preferences the best.
Composite bats are typically made with a mixture of graphite and titanium. These bats still have an aluminum wall, but the core is made from graphite or titanium.
One of the most significant advantages of a composite bat is weight. A composite bat should always be lighter than its aluminum counterpart.
A higher drop means better swing speed and increasing swing speed means better power and line-drive hits.
These bats are going to significantly increase power using something called a “trampoline effect”. This means that the light weight of a composite bat allows the energy of the impact go back into the ball and, almost, catapult the ball back towards the field.
In short, the bat creates added power.
There are a few downfalls to composite bats:
First, a lot of composite bats take about 150 swings to get fully “broken in”. That is, you’ll notice an increase in power after you reach that mark.
More importantly, the composite material leaves a somewhat hollow barrel which significantly shortens the life of the bat. That is, an aluminum bat is going to last longer than a composite bat.
Composite bats are also only supposed to be used in warm weather (18 degrees Celsius or higher).
Composite bats generally have a higher price tag; most are priced between $200 and $400. Some are priced even higher than that.
Aluminum bats are an old, but effective, standard. They’ve been around since 1924 and used in games since 1970.
One of the primary reasons they’ve been around so long is that they last. Many players use the same bats for years at a time.
Aluminum is still popular for a number of reasons. Perhaps most noticeably is because it is significantly cheaper than today’s composite bats.
A quick online search can find an aluminum fast-pitch softball bat for about $50.
Obviously, a cheap bat isn’t the best bat on the market, but even a high-end aluminum bat is often cheaper than its composite counterparts.
Additionally, aluminum bats don’t require any “breaking in” like a composite does. The day you get the bat, it’s ready to work at its full force.
A lot of hitters prefer an aluminum bat because of its feel. These softball bats generally have a stiffer, solid feel to them.
This allows the batter to really feel each contact and better understand when they just missed a pitch and by how much.
There are a few downfalls to aluminum bats:
While aluminum bats are significantly cheaper than composite bats, they don’t offer the same pop that a composite bat does.
Aluminum bats have a much smaller “sweet spot” so you’re less likely to get consistently good hits.
Another complaint about aluminum bats is that they sting when a player mishits. That is, if you don’t hit the ball close to the sweet spot, you’re going to feel it in your hands.
Finally, you can look to a hybrid bat that has an aluminum barrel and a composite handle.
This type of bat is strongly suggested for power hitters.
A hybrid bat is going to cost around $200-$300, so it’s still expensive. Yet, it can still be a bit cheaper than a full composite bat.
The hybrid bat offers the perfect mix of both worlds and is thereby the best softball bat you can buy.
Hybrid bats, like composite bats, have a larger sweet spot and reduce the vibration when mishitting the ball.
However, like an aluminum bat, they also can handle any temperature and are ready to perform as soon as they come out of the box.
It’s tough to find any significant negatives about a hybrid bat.
Length and weight
The length and weight of your bat will vary widely based on your own height and weight. Obviously, someone who is taller can handle a longer bat.
Likewise, someone who is heavier and has more muscle mass can handle a bat that is heavier.
This is something that should be decided on a case by case basis, but we will look at some basic guidelines:
If you shop for a bat at your local sporting goods store or pro shop, they will probably have a sizing guide on hand or they may even personally help size a bat for you or your family member.
Even most online bat retailers will have a sizing chart available on their site for you to refer to.
When shopping for a younger player, it may seem advantageous to buy a bat that they can grow into.
While this may save you some money when they would otherwise grow out of a smaller bat, it could make their season difficult, as swinging a too-heavy bat is difficult and hard to control.
10 Softball Bat Reviews
To help aid your decision and make the hassle of finding the best softball bats on the market even easier, here are 10 short softball bat reviews.
Hopefully, these options will give you a good foundation of knowledge and understanding of what to look for.
2017 DeMarini CF9 Fast-Pitch Softball Bat
Last year’s DeMarini CF8 was one of the best softball bats for players both young and old and the 2017 CF9 is no different.
It is available in 7 different models that range from -8 length-to-weight ratio to -11:
|DeMarini CF9 Fastpitch (-8)
|DeMarini CF9 Fastpitch (-9)
|CF9 Balanced Fastpitch (-10)
|DeMarini CF9 Fastpitch (-11)
There is also specific models for power hitters and even a “Slapper” model that has its handle gripped specifically for left-handed players.
Every model has a barrel diameter of 2.25 inches and is certified for play in the major softball league associations (USSSA, ASA, NSA, ISA, etc.).
|DeMarini CF9 Slapper (-10)
|DeMarini CF9 Hope (-10)
|DeMarini CF9 Insane (-10)
Under the hood of this composite bat is a ton of performance-enhancing features that will help you hit the ball farther and harder.
It has an almost unreal sweet spot and one of the lightest swing weights that DeMarini has yet produced.
Put those two together and you have an incredibly powerful fast-pitch softball bat.
The two-piece design and D-Fusion 2.0 Handle Technology helps eliminate the unpleasant feedback that can cause bat sting on the hands.
It works by redirecting that energy back into the barrel for even more powerful hits.
Compared to last year’s model, the 2017 DeMarini CF9’s Paraflex Composite Barrel uses carbon fibers that are, according to softball bat reviews, 22% stronger than last year’s Paradox+ Composite material.
The new material is also more responsive and requires less time to break in; it actually feels like an aluminum alloy softball bat.
2017 Louisville Slugger LXT Hyper Fast-Pitch Bat
Louisville Slugger is known for making some of the original wooden bats, but their lineup of composite and aluminum bats is also very impressive.
The LXT Hyper fast-pitch softball bat has a number of features that improve both the batter’s comfort and confidence at the plate and also the power of their hits.
It all starts with the Performance Barrel-Flex (PBF) Technology and the Performance PLUS Composite Double-Wall Design.
The PBF system delivers an all around larger and more explosive sweet spot, while the Double-Wall design improves the bats trampoline effect on batted balls and actually cuts down the break-in period, so you can start mashing extra base hits sooner.
The 2017 Louisville Slugger LXT Hyper has the TRU3 Three-Piece-Connection technology that we have come to expect from Louisville Slugger bats.
Newly improved for 2017, this bat feature adds a small rubber insert between the handle and the barrel.
This has a noticeable effect on reducing vibrations felt on the hands and actually transfers that energy back into the barrel of the bat.
This fast-pitch softball bat is available in four different drop weights: -8, -9, -10 and -11:
|LXT Hyper (-8) Fastpitch Bat
|LXT Hyper (-9) Fastpitch Bat
|LXT Hyper (-10) Fastpitch Bat
|LXT Hyper (-11) Fastpitch Bat
Overall, it has a balanced swing that is ideal for contact hitters looking to get on base with hard hits.
It is approved by all major softball associations and is backed by a 12-month manufacturer warranty.
2017 Miken PSYCHO SuperMax Slow-Pitch Softball Bat
If you are notorious for being the cleanup, power hitter on your slow-pitch softball team, then there are very few bats on the market that can contend with the 2017 Miken PSYCHO SuperMax bat.
Why? Because this bat is designed to be hitting mammoth home runs every time you take a trip to the plate.
It gets its titanic power from a one-ounce end load. Often, bats with heavy end loads suffer because that added weight throws off the flex index of the stick and actually causes it to lose bat whip speed through the zone.
The Miken engineers have fixed this problem with their Flex 2 Power (F2P) Technology, which counteracts this phenomenon and instead maximizes bat speed through the zone.
Additionally, the 2017 Miken PSYCHO SuperMax is a noticeably durable bat, as it should be to withstand the heavy contact of the power hitters it is designed for.
This improved, long-lasting durability is thanks to two key components:
First, the PSYCHO SuperMax’s aerospace-grade composite material, which can take a lot of abuse before cracking.
Second, the bat’s Triple Matrix Core that not only helps improve the hitter’s performance at the plate, but also eliminates seams and weak points in the barrel.
Overall, this slow-pitch bat is a power hitter’s dream. It is designed specifically for big, powerful drives to the deepest part of the field.
It is worth mentioning that it is not approved for play in ASA leagues. It is only certified for USSSA, NSA and ISA leagues.
2017 Easton Stealth Fast-Pitch Softball Bat
The newly redesigned Easton Stealth has a number of small improvements over previous models. For example, the bat now has about 15% better barrel compression, compared to its predecessors.
Also new to this year’s Stealth is the FLEX Technology, which helps improve the barrel’s flex capabilities and thereby give the bat a softer, better feel that has some impressive pop to it.
In terms of power, the 2017 Easton Stealth delivers thanks to the Thermo Composite Technology (TCT).
Anyone who has used an Easton bat recently can vouch for the TCT’s ability to expand the sweet spot, without sacrificing the club’s swing speed.
In other words, it provides you with more harder hit balls and incredible bat speed. You’ll be knocking balls through the infield for base hits almost regularly.
The bat has two effective features that help improve player comfort by eliminating painful bat sting.
The CXN ZERO technology is similar to Louisville Slugger’s TRU3 Connection feature, in that they both aim to reduce vibrations by enhancing the connection point between handle and barrel.
The 2017 Easton Stealth also comes with a HYPERSKIN 1.2mm grip, which further improves the bat’s ability to reduce vibrations felt on the hands, while simultaneously adding extra bat control.
|Stealth Flex (-8) Fastpitch Bat
|Stealth Flex (-9) Fastpitch Bat
|Stealth Flex (-10) Fastpitch Bat
|Stealth Flex (-11) Fastpitch Bat
For younger players, there is a much more affordable youth version, which has fewer features (since youth players are less likely to need some of the high-end bat technologies).
Otherwise, the bat is available with a length-to-weight ratio of -8, -9, -10 or -11 and a 2.25-inch barrel diameter.
It is approved for play in all major softball leagues.
2017 COMBAT Madison Shipman Fast-Pitch Softball Bat
First, the bat has the lowest swing weight that has yet been offered in COMBAT’s arsenal of fast-pitch sticks.
Next, its sweet spot is 40% (!!) larger than other COMBAT fast-pitch sticks. That means more hitting surface and a higher frequency of hard hit balls.
In addition to these improvements, this Madison Shipman inspired bat implements COMBAT’s Precision Molding Technology.
This unique process uses machine precision to inject a liquid resin between the carbon fiber folds of the bat.
|Madison Shipman Fastpitch Bat (-9)
|Madison Shipman Fastpitch Bat (-13)
The result is a bat that is free of seams and weak points that cause other bats to crack and form dead spots.
This seamless construction also allows the COMBAT engineers to fine-tune the barrel’s performance to be at its absolute optimal performance.
The last key feature of the 2017 COMBAT Madison Shipman fast-pitch bat is the Lizard Skin Grip, which helps keep the batter’s hands from sliding during a swing and improves overall bat control.
2017 Dudley Lightning Legend 2.0 Slow-Pitch Bat
The Lightning Legend 2.0 is available in three, distinctly different models. Each model has a range of drop weights and a unique color to separate it from the others.
There is a balanced model with a 13-inch barrel, an end-loaded model that also has a 13-inch barrel and, lastly, an advanced end-loaded bat with a 12-inch barrel for serious power hitters.
|Lightning Legend 2.0 End Loaded (-12)
|Lightning Legend 2.0 Balanced (-13)
|Lightning Legend 2.0 End Loaded (-13)
Despite being available with a balanced swing weight, the one-piece composite design is more akin to the typical preferences of a power hitter.
If you are a contact hitter looking to transition into hitting for power, then this is a great option.
Aside from the end load and advanced end load of the 2017 Dudley Lightning Legend 2.0, the bat also generates some distance on batted balls from its Grip Spin Technology.
This feature provides a “grip” to the surface of the barrel that holds the ball for just a fraction of a second, before propelling it with enhanced backspin and thereby greater carry and lift.
Even though the Lightning Legend 2.0 is a composite bat, it hits pretty well right out of the box.
It carries a 1.21 BPF certification stamp and is approved for play in SSUSA and other similar Senior Softball leagues.
2017 Louisville Slugger XENO Plus Fast-Pitch Bat
Louisville Slugger’s XENO Plus series is another one of those fast-pitch softball bats that continues to impress players every year.
As one of the best softball bats available, you can be assured knowing it has all of the fixings of a high end bat.
For starters, this two-piece, composite bat’s design yields a super balanced swing, big sweet spot and impressive energy transfer, thanks to the iST Xs Technology.
This fast-pitch softball bat is capable of impressive pop thanks to the Performance PLUS Composite material and design that it is constructed with.
This aims to create zero friction upon contact and the double-wall construction maximizes the bat’s trampoline effect, which translates to you hitting the ball further and harder.
The 2017 XENO Plus also implements Louisville Slugger’s patented S1iD Barrel Technology, which resides inside the barrel and allows the bat to have multiple thicknesses of barrel walls that are precisely arranged to yield the optimal results.
|XENO Plus (-10) Fastpitch Bat
|XENO Plus (-11) Fastpitch Bat
This feature also gives the bat an out-of-the-box hot performance. Thus, you don’t need to break it in before you step to the plate.
This bat is available in four different models, most of which are identical, but have different drop weights that range from -8 at the heaviest, to -11 at the lightest.
The -11 length-to-weight ratio is best suited for young players.
2017 COMBAT Maxum Fast-Pitch Softball Bat
The Maxum is COMBAT’s bread and butter. It is offered in four models of fast-pitch softball bats, but it is also an accomplished baseball bat as well.
The four fast-pitch models are a two-piece, -14 length-to-weight ratio for young players, a one-piece -10 drop and two -8 drop models, one of which is a two-piece bat that has a 13.25-inch barrel length and the other is an inch longer at 14.25 inches and is a one-piece stick.
|Maxum One-Piece (-8) Fastpitch Bat
|Maxum Two-Piece (-8) Fastpitch Bat
|Maxum One-Piece (-10) Fastpitch Bat
|Maxum Two-Piece (-14) Fastpitch Bat
Each variation is approved for play in major softball league associations, including ASA, USSSA and others.
The Maxum has a lot of the same features as the Madison Shipman. That includes the Precision Molding Technology to eliminate weak spots and seams in the barrel, the massive MAXUM sweet spot that is approximately 40% bigger than previous COMBAT fast-pitch bats and the Lizard Skins Grip for superior hold and control on the handle.
While the 2017 COMBAT Maxum may seem very similar to the Madison Shipman, its longer barrel, especially in the -8 length-to-weight ratio bats, and its -14 drop youth version give it a lot more versatility as a youth or adult bat.
The longer barrel models are good for a contact hitter looking to transition into taking on more of a power hitting role.
2017 Rawlings VELO Fast-Pitch Softball Bat
Similar to the COMBAT Maxum, Rawlings’ VELO bat is already an accomplished baseball bat. In fact, it is one of the lightest and fastest swinging bats on the market and chosen by top players across all leagues.
Now, Rawlings is looking to take that success and adapt the 2017 Rawlings VELO to become one of the best softball bats available.
The reason that the VELO is so incredibly lightweight is largely due to its Ultra Light Carbon Fiber Composite construction and the Silver Comp Lite End Cap.
This fiber-reinforced end cap is designed to remove any unneeded weight from the end of the bat and move it towards the player’s hands.
This allows for an even more balanced and lightweight feel to every swing.
There are two key drawbacks to the 2017 Rawlings VELO fast-pitch softball bat:
First, it lacks a good grip. When you consider its lightweight construction and thereby fast swing speed, a proper grip is important to ensure that your hand’s don’t drift during the swing.
Luckily, you can pick up a Lizard Skins Grip for cheap and easily remedy the problem.
The other drawback of this bat is that it is only available as a single model with an -11 length-to-weight ratio.
Again, this is the first year that Rawlings has made a VELO-model fast-pitch softball bat.
They may release more models, depending on the bats success, closer to 2017 or in the beginning of the year.
However, it may not be until next year’s model that we see a full fast-pitch VELO lineup.
2017 Rawlings Quatro Fast-Pitch Softball Bat
The Quatro is an entirely new offering by Rawlings. It gets its name from the Quatro Collar Technology.
This bat feature is one of the best in the game at absorbing and deflecting the shockwaves caused upon contact that can cause bat sting.
It works alongside the Vibration Dampening Technology (VDT). Thus, you can swing hard and confident, even at those inside pitches that would otherwise ring in on the hands.
Aside from protecting the batter from bat sting, the Quatro also has some impressive bat speed to produce consistent, hard line drives.
It gets its power from its Ultimate Flex characteristic, which optimizes the bat’s flex index for superior bat whip.
Quatro College/High School (-10) Fastpitch Bat
In other words, you are going to be cutting through the strike zone quicker than you would with your average bat.
While the 2017 Rawlings Quatro is a full composite bat, which utilizes a high-quality carbon fiber barrel for added pop, it has a noticeably short break-in period. Some softball bat reviews say it is hot right out of the wrapped.
This fast-pitch softball bat is only available in two models, a -10 length to weight ratio, or a -9. Both have a 2.25-inch barrel diameter and a balanced swing weight.
Additionally, they are both certified and cleared for play in ASA, USSSA, NSA, ISF and most other softball league associations.
Choosing the best softball bat to use can be a difficult task, especially for a first-time player. There is a lot to look out for, with regards to the style and materials used, the length and weight and the brands and models.
Bats can be expensive, even at the youth level, so it is important to know what to look for and to make sure the bat you choose is going to fit your personal play style and last you the entire season.
If there had to be a best in show, I would go with the 2017 DeMarini CF9.
This bat has been great the last few years and there is no reason that this year should be any different.
Even though not much has changed under the hood of this bat, it’s many, many different models allow any type or style of hitter to find a CF9 that fits them.
Hopefully, this guide and the accompanying list of ten of the best softball bats for 2017, can get you ready for play and ready for the bat of your dreams.