Hitting a slow-pitch softball, as it floats gently toward the plate, may appear easy. But poor swing mechanics can result in popups or weak grounders rather than line drives, and flyouts rather than home runs. Work some swing drills into your next practice sessions and the game may become almost as simple as it looks.
Bat speed is the key to hitting with power in softball. To help increase your bat speed, place a softball on a hitting tee in the middle of your strike zone. Hold the bat with your lead arm -- the left arm, for a right-handed hitter. Raise the elbow of your opposite arm but place the open palm of your right hand on the inside of the bat handle, a bit higher than the point at which you’d normally grip the bat. The palm should face away from you with the base of your four fingers touching the bat. Bring the bat back into a standard hitting position, then use your left arm to swing the bat and your right hand to push the bat forward.
Throwing the Bat Drill
You’ve probably seen images of the stereotypical softball slugger, the guy with the bulging muscles and beer belly who can hit a softball for miles. But you don’t have to be thickly muscle -- or a guy -- to generate power in slow-pitch softball. Muscles don’t hurt, of course, but if you use your whole body, and shift your weight forward leading into the moment of impact, you can hit the ball hard, no matter your size. To practice putting everything you have into your swing, grasp a bat-sized object -- such as the rubber top section of a batting tee, or part of a thick broomstick handle -- and assume your batting stance. Take a normal swing, but release the object and try to throw it as far as possible, while maintaining a standard swinging motion. Experiment with different stride lengths and be sure to shift your weight from your back foot to the front. The farther the object travels, the more power your swing will produce.
To help a player position her hands between her body and the ball -- as opposed to extending her arms too early in the swing, which can put her hands outside of the pitch’s path -- have the hitter set up at the plate in her normal stance. Stand down one of the baselines, or in foul territory, about 12 to 15 feet from the hitter. Stand on the first base side for a right-handed batter. Toss the ball toward the batter and have her hit the pitches into fair territory.
Hit to All Fields
There are two basic types of softball hitters -- those who try to drive the ball as far as possible, and those who follow the old baseball cliché and try to “hit 'em where they ain't.” If you’re the latter type, practice hitting to all fields during your next batting practice session. Begin by pulling five balls down the line, regardless of where the ball is pitched. Hit the next five to left-center -- if you’re right-handed -- then proceed around the field, hitting five to straightaway center, five to right-center and five to right field. Swing a bit earlier and/or open your stance a bit to pull the ball. Swing later and/or close your stance to hit the ball hard to the opposite field.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.