Slow-pitch softball is to fast-pitch softball as miniature golf is to golf. Slow-pitch softball is the type of game you play for fun with your coworkers in a recreational league. The most important piece of equipment may be a keg of beer. Fast-pitch softball is a sport for female jocks, many of whom compete at the highest levels in college and the professional ranks. Olympian Jennie Finch, for example, has used her 360-degree windmill motion to hurl pitches at over 70 mph past befuddled major league baseball players during exhibitions. So, the bats for slow-pitch softball and fast-pitch softball are designed for the vastly different nature of the two games.
Pitching and Bats
When you play slow-pitch softball, the ball is thrown in an arc 6 to 12 feet high. The basic strategy in slow-pitch is simple: A batter times the pitch as it comes in on its slow arc and tries to bash the ball as far as possible. You don't need a very sophisticated instrument for hitting purposes, although some slow-pitch aficionados spend big bucks for bats. In fast-pitch softball, the velocity of the pitches gives you very little time to react and swing. You're also faced with pitchers who can throw curves and change-ups. Your bat needs to be finely tuned toward your swing speed and power requirements. Getting on base is difficult at the elite level of fast-pitch softball, and many fast-pitch bats are designed for a hitters who try to get on base by bunting, slapping pitches or hitting singles.
Slow-pitch bats are generally heavier, roughly 26 to 30 ounces. Since you have much more time to swing and react to pitches thrown at about 25 mph, you can use a bigger bat to hit the ball as hard as you can. Fast-pitch bats usually range from 23 to 28 ounces. You can swing a lighter bat faster, enabling you to get it around quicker to cope with pitching speeds that often top 60 mph.
Fast-pitch bats come in one-piece or two-piece construction. A one-piece bat is stronger and stiffer, designed for more powerful hitters who swing with more speed and force. A two-piece bat is designed with a separate handle and barrel. This enables the barrel to flex more easily and provides a trampoline effect when you swing. So if you lack the strength for a fast and powerful swing, a two-piece bat compensates to maximize your hitting ability.
Slow-pitch bats are almost always 34 inches long. They are made from aluminum, composite materials such as carbon fibers, or wood. If you use a slow-pitch bat in a fast-pitch game, you aren't likely to damage it, according to Daniel Russell at Penn State. But the greater weight of the bat compromises your hitting ability. On the other hand, if you use a fast-pitch bat in a slow-pitch game, there's a decent chance you'll crack or break it, since the bat material is often thinner to increase its flex and trampoline effect. Get the right bat for the right game.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.