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!