Slap-Happy; The Art of Slap Hitting in Fast-Pitch Softball
It is no secret by now that people love the long-ball. The girls with the walk- off homers and high RBI’s are the ones that get most of the glory in the softball world. As impressive as power hitters are; unless you’re launching solo shots on a regular basis, someone has to set the table for your big moments. Those table-setters often come in the form of a slapper. We caught up with Emily Allard, current Chicago Bandit (NPF) and all-time stolen base leader at Northwestern University.
“Not only is your job to get on base and "set the table," but just by being a slapper, you are automatically a threat the moment you step into the box. We have an incredibly unique ability to change the momentum of a game simply by putting the ball in play.”
Allard has enjoyed tremendous success as a slapper both in college and professional play. Her passion for the hitting style has driven the creation of her company, Be The Momentum with Kristin Jensen (formerly Scharkey) another former NU slapper standout. BTM, in Allard’s words “… focuses mainly on clinic instruction and social media support for slappers, but recently has expanded into speed, baserunning and defensive work as well”.
The slap hitter is an incredibly versatile and CRUCIAL hitter in the line-up. Often seen in the 1,2, or 9 spot; the slapper’s job is to get on base and move runners into scoring position. Newbie spectators of the game are often shocked to see that a slapper begins stepping into her route to first before contact is made with the ball. The purpose of the run-through is to get out of the box faster and lessen her time to first base. Allard adds, “As a slapper, your entire existence relies on your ability to get on base in any way possible, most often with short game or challenging the defense to make a play against your speed”.
The art of slapping can come in multiple forms. There is the slap-bunt (or drag-bunt), where the slapper makes her steps and drops a quick bunt down. The purpose of these bunts are for base hits so they are not considered sacrifices. Although, if a slapper gets thrown out on a drag bunt but also moves her runner, she was still productive! The second, and most authentic form of slapping is the infield slap. This can come in multiple forms (soft roller/high bounce), but is hit with the intention of beating the throw to first. This is a slapper’s opportunity to really showcase her speed and one of Allard’s favorite parts of slapping. “Our speed forces defenses to be PERFECT in order to get us out. That's fun“. Placement and bat control are crucial pieces to this technique. The final addition to the slapping repertoire is the power-slap. This technique is pretty self-explanatory. These slaps are base hits that make it through the infield. Power slaps come into play when an RBI is needed or if the outfield is playing you incorrectly. A quick analysis of the defense is all it takes for a slapper to strategize her power slap approach. When the outfield is playing deep, just a strong poke into shallow left-center is all it takes (the infield will typically play tight to defend the tap/drag leaving a gap in shallow OF). If the outfield is playing close (which is very commonly done), then unleash the full power slap and turn the would-be single into a double or triple.
Athletes who are able to master each slapping technique become virtually indefensible. Slappers are the ultimate triple threat at the plate and deserve major props for their production. They are able to speed up game and keep EVERYONE on their toes.
"Setting the table is just as important as clearing the bases." This is the BTM motto and a very true statement! Fortunately, with the accomplishments of big time slappers such as Allard, Caitlin Lowe, and Natasha Watley, the art of slapping has been put on the map and forced people to pay attention. Demarini has caught the slapping bug and created the FIRST and ONLY slapper specific bat. With a longer barrel and weighted even closer to the hands, the CF8 is tailored completely to the unique needs of the slapper. The CF8 Slapper is now available and we have it here at Better Softball. Come on by and try it out at our in-house demo stations!
The 2016 Demarini bats are coming in hot this year and they gave us a sneak peak here at Better Baseball and Better Softball. There have been some serious upgrades to the already advanced technology that Demarini is known for. The Paradox + composite barrel is now even more responsive creating a longer sweet spot and optimal performance right out of the wrapper. You won’t have to wait for results on these babies. The new D- Fusion 2.0 handle redirects energy from contact back into the barrel minimizing hand sting and sending back that beautiful vibration you get when you really get a hold of one.
The best part about Demarini bats is that each is designed for a specific type of player. You are always coming into a bat that was literally made for you. The CF8 -8 and CF8 -9 are heavy hitters and designed for maximum pop. The CF8 -10 Insane is made for those athletes who don’t want to compromise explosive power for a lighter swing. You get the best of both worlds with this bat as it swings lighter but distributes the weight out further for maximum pop. An added bonus is that the electric blue color scheme on this bat is phenomenal.
The old faithful -10 balanced model is back and better than ever. Everything that made this bat great just got greater. The stacked barrel construction gives the lightest walls in the game for a balanced powerful swing.
The LIMITED EDITION CF8 -10 HOPE is structurally identical to the CF8 -10 but with a little social agenda behind it. Proceeds from purchases on this model go toward the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. You can crush softballs and cancer at the same time- the ultimate multi-task. Only making 2,000 of these so get yours quick!
The CF8 -11 is the perfect bat for the younger, less developed athletes who are ready to crush. Players are getting serious about their sport much younger these days and need a bat that packs the same punch as the bigger, heavier models. The color scheme showcases the demeanor of the bat. A serious look with intense graphics and only a little pink to keep the flavor. The designers at Demarini understand that you don’t have to drown a bat in pink to catch a girl’s attention. This is the most popular bat of its kind and in my opinion, the best transition bat in the game.
The most exciting addition to the 2016 line in my opinion is the first ever SLAPPER bat! Modeled after the balanced -10, the 2016 CF8 -10 Slapper is designed specifically for the unique needs of this kind of hitter. The longer barrel measures up to 14” for maximum plate coverage and weight is distributed closer to the hands for unbeatable barrel control. Don’t worry power slappers- this bat has the same explosive pop as the other models so you can keep working those gaps. The best part of the bat is that it is just as versatile as the athletes who swing it. It is made so you can utilize all the tools that make you an effective slapper. I am beyond excited for this bat to hit the field this season.
Needless to say, we are pumped for the 2016 Demarini CF8 line. Theres a reason why some of the greatest players in the game are swinging Demarini. Here at Better Baseball and Better Softball, we are one of the few who can provide demos so come by our store and look for us at tourneys to demo one for yourself. Feel free to leave your own reviews of any of these models below!