After a week the poll I posted closed and the results pretty much match what I observed at last weekend's tourney. Louisville Slugger and DeMarini are the most used fastpitch softball bats right now. Easton seems to have lost a lot of ground in the past couple of years. All others are in the minority. I suppose I should point out that most of my observations were watching 18u teams play.
Since we couldn't depend on that bat I was forced to buy another.
Broken Bats, Dead Bats & Warranties
If you spend enough time around the game you're sure to see some broken bats. The first time I witnessed this was years ago in 12u on a ball hit on the handle. The bat broke cleanly in half at the top of the grip. It was a hot and humid day in the middle of summer. A couple years ago my daughter had an Easton Stealth (left). She used it throughout the fall breaking it at our last tourney, the Diamond 9 Sun Classic Showcase at the Wide World of Sports. She hit a ball hard in the sweet spot when it broke. It sounded funny on the hit. It had what looked like stitches all the way down the barrel.
Her previous bat was the earlier model (white/purple) and she loved it. It just wore out and felt dead after a year of use, which in her case involved hitting 4-5 days a week all year. So, naturally she wanted the lastest Easton Stealth model for her next bat. Everything was fine until that day in Orlando. The replacement came and broke in the exact same way while scrimmaging indoor after only a couple weeks of use. This time Easton's warranty department informed me that this would be the final bat they could send me. They can only replace a bat 3 times in a single year. I guess that must be in the fine print?
The first replacement took about a month to get and the 2nd took a little longer. Since we couldn't depend on that bat I was forced to buy another. We made the jump to DeMarini (right), which was the brand many of her teammates were using. When the replacement came from Easton it just collected dust. She grew fond of the DeMarini and never looked back. She used it for over a year up until she headed off to college. While coaching I used it last fall hitting balls at practice and it felt a little spongy. I then picked up a new Xeno and realized the DeMarini was all done. You can just feel the difference in the pop between a new and used bat, regardless of brand.
Ball State is sponsored by Louisville Slugger. She used an LXT this season and despite reservations likely caused by the unique sound the bat makes, she grew to like it. She's using a Xeno this summer. Our high school bought 2 Xenos last year for the varsity team. Both bats held up pretty good except for one thing: We didn't realize it when it was happening, but the girls had a bad habit of knocking the mud off their cleats during another wet Michigan spring. (Note to self for next year) Although the bats are chipped badly, they still have some pop in them. They'll be retired after the summer rec league ends.
I'm sure many of you have similar experiences, good and bad, with these brands of fastpitch softball bats. The warranty issue with Easton didn't sit well with me, since I paid $300 for a useless bat. Maybe there's something more to that since they have obviously lost market share? One thing for sure is that DeMarini and Louisville Slugger are the most popular fastpitch softball bats right now.