Softball as a sport can often be overlooked by many, but the game has a lot of interesting history, lore, and gameplay to admire. However, if you are just entering the world of interest in softball, you may have found yourself wondering – how many innings are there in softball?
At the college level major league softball, teams play a game with seven innings. However, at some junior levels, the number of innings can decrease. The same can happen when the eight-run rule is invoked, or if the umpire declares that the game is invalid and forfeited. A game can also be extended if there is a draw.
As you can see, there are a lot of interesting rules and traditions within the game of softball that would be a delight to dive into. So, stay with us as we explore the world of softball leagues and pitches, and discover more about this popular college sport.
What is the number of innings in a softball game?
Softball games have either 6 or 7 innings, depending on the level of the teams competing. At the level of college softball, for example, this number is almost always 7 innings. Youth softball, on the other hand, can have as low as 6 innings instead.
Each inning consists of a top and a bottom half – during the top half, the visiting team takes on the role of batting, whereas the bottom half signals the home team hitting.
How long do softball innings last?
There is no set amount of time that is dedicated to each half of an innings, nor is there a total number of pitches that are thrown. In fact, a half inning lasts as long as it takes for three outs to be made. Once that is done, the half innings end and the next team takes over.
The very fastest that a half innings can end is with just three pitches if all three of them result in an out. This same pattern is used throughout the game for all six or seven of the innings planned.
However, most softball games will wrap up within two hours, although this number can change depending on how fast each of the halves of the innings takes. In some cases, there can also be extra innings as well that can factor into the length of the game.
For example, extra innings are played when there is a tie between the home and visiting teams. During the extra inning, the visiting team bats first, and the home team at the end. If there is another tie by the end, extra innings are added to the scoreboard.
In fact, the longest game on record in the National Collegiate Athletic Association was played in the year 1991 and lasted about seven hours. The game included a total of 31 games between Creighton and Utah, with Creighton securing the win in the end. Click here for How Long Does a Softball Game Last
Exceptions in softball innings
There is also a mercy rule in college softball games, which means the game can be declared over if one of the team’s scores eight runs in the five innings, although these rules can be different in various situations and under different leagues.
In the case of rain, there are a couple of things that can happen:
- If the home team is winning in 4.5 innings, the game is concluded with a winner.
- In 5 innings, the game is concluded with the winner as whoever has the highest points.
- If the game does not start, it can be made up later in the season.
- The game can wait for the rain to stop, and resume again.
- If the rain does not interfere, the game can resume as normal.
Is there a time limit on softball games?
No, usually, there is no time limit on softball games, especially at the college level. The game will continue for as long as it takes the seven innings to complete, and any extra innings to conclude. However, at junior softball games, there may be a time limit in place.
Junior leagues often have limits in place, either regarding the time or the total number of innings that are played in the game. The purpose of these limits is to keep games short, as these games are still being played by young athletes who are still developing their skills.
By placing a time limit on the game, the league can ensure that the games continue to a reasonable time frame, i.e. two hours for younger athletes. However, there are also some limitations that can occur at the college level.
This is usually done at the college level when there are back-to-back games being played, and a game longer than the standard two hours may disrupt the entire schedule and push all other games forward.
However, college athletes should keep in mind that in cases when there isn’t a time limit on the time that the match can take, there is one on warm-up and preparation. Each team only gets about ninety seconds to get out into the field and prepare for the match.
The most important rules in softball
There are many important rules to consider when playing a softball game that every athlete should know about. Here are some of the crucial rules that make up the structure of the game:
1. Awarding a run
A run is awarded when a runner runs across four bases, stepping on each one of them. These bases are the first, second, third, and the home base. When the player runs across them all and lands on the home base, they can be awarded a run.
A team can get multiple runs on the same play, as long as they touch all of the bases. It is also important to remember that a player cannot be removed when they are on a base, as a base is considered ‘safe.’
As we talked about above, a team can play their half of an innings unless there are three outs. An out can occur when there is a strike, when a fly-ball is caught, or when a runner is thrown out.
The pitching team aims to get three outs as soon as possible to conclude the half innings. On the other hand, the team batting will want to avoid outs and score runs for as long as they can to improve their score.
A strike is an instance where the batter is unable to hit the ball, and it is within the strike zone. A strike zone is a region between the knees and shoulders of the batter. The umpire will usually call three strikes, after the third one, the player is out.
4. Number of players
In a softball game, there are nine players allowed for each team. This is because each team has nine positions available. The team must also decide their batting order ahead of time, and follow the order when they are playing on the field.
The batting order is cycled through in each innings, meaning the same order is played whenever the team is batting. Teams are allowed to have reserve players, who can take over in emergency cases, such as injury or illness.
5. Underhand throws
All of the pitchers in softball matches have to throw using an underhand motion. It is also necessary for the pitcher’s feet to touch the pitcher’s plate to qualify to be part of the game. Another important rule for pitchers is that they must not stop during the wind-up to the pitch.
6. Forfeit rules
A forfeit can happen if a team cancels playing the game for any reason other than the field conditions. The team that is seeking the forfeit must ask their opponent to play the game with other options, or for them to concede to a forfeit.
In the scenario that a team does not concede to the forfeit, the league can be involved. They will hear from both teams about the situation that resulted in the cancellation. However, for more leagues, the only acceptable answer is an issue with the field conditions.
The possible outcomes, in this case, are that either one time will win their forfeit request, or there will be a ‘no contest’ decision which means that both teams attempted to make that game happen, and are showing flexibility in making up the game later.
If a team wins a forfeit, they can be awarded a win on that game, along with three points that will count to their standing in the league. It is also important to remember that the forfeit must happen within the timeline of the season that is being played by both teams.
No, there is no difference between men’s and women’s softball based on the number of innings. The only distinction that is made is on the basis of age, as junior leagues in either case, will have less than seven innings.
There are nine positions in each softball team, although teams can have reserve players in case of injury or illness. These are the pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, left fielder, center fielder, and right fielder.
On the opposing team, only one player will join in as the batter.
A batter can score a run in baseball by running across all four of the bases (first, second, third, and home) without being thrown out by the opposing team. The more runs the team scores, the better their chances at a win.
The number of innings in a softball game is almost always seven, although the number can change depending on various circumstances. All in all, the best way to become familiar with the game is to go out to a match and see the rules play out in front of you. We hope this article helped you understand how softball is structured!