How Many Innings Are in a Baseball Game? A Complete Guide


An upper-deck view of Yankee Stadium.

Have you ever browsed your local sports channels and thought “Wow, it seems like this baseball game has been on forever – what inning is it?” We’ve all been there.

So, how many innings are in a baseball game?

Nine innings is the standard regulation length for professional, semi-professional, and collegiate baseball games. Standard regulation baseball games at the high school and Little League levels usually last for seven and six innings respectively, or until the time limit is reached.

The phrase “standard regulation” is used to suggest that the full game has been played. Alternatively, there is an official minimum amount of innings that must be played for a game to count as “official.” A game is considered “official” if it has reached the minimum number of innings before being canceled due to rough weather or an emergency of any kind.

Throughout this article, we’ll compare how many innings take place at each level of play, how long innings take, what extra innings are, and much more. So make sure to stick around!

Was Baseball Always 9 Innings?

No – a regulation baseball game hasn’t always lasted for nine innings!

The Knickerbocker Baseball Club of New York is thought to be the oldest baseball organization in America, with a rule book dating back to 1845. Among many other differences to the game, the length of play was not regulated by innings, but rather by runs. 21 runs to be exact!

Major League Baseball’s Cut4, a blog dedicated to sharing baseball pop culture and historical facts, tells us that the game moved from runs to innings in 1856. A notable 12-12 tie game was officially called after it became too dark for the players to participate, inspiring the need for a rule change.

How Do Innings Work in Baseball?

Innings are composed of six outs, three for each team. Each set of three outs is considered a half – also referred to as the top or bottom of the inning. In a standard regulation game, there will be a minimum of 51 outs.

You might think “9×6 is actually 54…” and you’re right! A regulation game, however, allows the visiting team the opportunity to play first in the ninth inning. If the visiting team is behind and cannot tie the game or take the lead after the top of the ninth, then the game ends without the home team taking the field, resulting in only 51 outs.

What Is the Top of an Inning in Baseball?

The top of the inning is the first half of the inning. The top half of the inning is assigned to the visiting team, giving them the opportunity to bat first in each inning.

The visiting team is allowed to rack up three outs before their half of the inning ends and the bottom of the inning begins.

What Is the Bottom of an Inning in Baseball?

The bottom of the inning is considered the second half, or the final three outs of the inning. The bottom of the inning is always assigned to the home team, allowing them an opportunity to respond to the visiting team. The bottom half of the ninth inning may be skipped if the home team is already in the lead when the top half of the ninth inning ends.

How Many Innings Are in an MLB Game?

MLB games are scheduled to last nine innings. According to Major League Baseball (MLB), a professional game is technically considered “official” if at least five innings have been completed, but the normal length of play is nine innings.

How Many Innings Are in a Double Header?

A doubleheader refers to two games scheduled to be played back to back on the same day. A set of two full-length games in a row could last upwards of five or six hours, easily!

Not only does this mean that viewers are expected to sit through a long day of baseball, but the players would be exhausted at the end of it all. With these factors in mind, the MLB set the length of each doubleheader game to seven innings for the 2020 & 2021 seasons.

Take a look at the table below to compare the rules for each level of play. Included are the standard amount of innings, the number of innings that must be completed for a game to count as official, and how many innings are in a doubleheader.

LevelStandard # of InningsOfficial Game Min. Req.Double Header # of Innings
Major League  957
Minor League  957
College/NCAA  957/9
High School  74 1/27
Little League  63 1/26

How Many Innings Are in a Minor League Baseball Game?

Minor League Baseball (MiLB), the American organization of semi-professional baseball clubs, follows mostly the same set of published Major League Baseball rules.

The expectation is that at least five innings have to be completed to count as an “official game,” but a standard game will play into the ninth inning.

Minor League Baseball has the same inning structure as Major League Baseball, with the visiting team batting first and the home team responding in the bottom of the inning. Minor league teams are also granted three outs per inning, which turns out to be a minimum of 51 outs per game.

How Many Innings Are in a College Baseball Game?

The scheduled length of a standard regulation college baseball game is nine innings. The National Collegiate Athletics Association considers a game “official” if at least nine innings have been played or a team is ahead by 10 runs after the fifth inning.

Following the example of major and minor league ball, college baseball allows each team 3 outs per inning. Dissimilarly from the MLB and MiLB, collegiate regulation allows doubleheaders to be scheduled in three ways: two 9 inning games, one 9 inning and one 7 inning game, or two 7 inning games.

How Many Innings Are in a High School Baseball Game?

The average regulation high school baseball game is seven innings.

Most high school athletics are governed by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). The NFHS allows states to impose their own regulation on official game rules, including how many innings are to be played. The structure of the game remains the same, however, with each team being allotted three outs per inning.

High school baseball usually requires doubleheaders to play through seven innings.

How Many Innings Are in a Little League Baseball Game?

A Little League baseball player slides into home.

The average regulation little league baseball game has six innings. Additionally, the Little League Resource Guide suggests that a game may be called “official” early if one team is ahead by 10 runs after three and a half innings (major division) or four and a half innings (intermediate, junior, or senior divisions).

The 10 run rule, as well as the 15 run rule, have long helped to regulate the length of little league games. In the past, the choice to stop the game in the third inning was commonly referred to as the “mercy rule” or the “slaughter rule,” but these names are highly frowned upon in modern gameplay.

While the NFHS allows state regulatory groups to make adjustments to the rules governing high school games, Little League Baseball is a non-profit that takes its rules very seriously! Local league organizers are never permitted to adjust rules governing the game length.

How Long Are Baseball Innings?

A single baseball inning in the MLB or MiLB can last around 20 minutes, with each team spending about 10 minutes at bat.

With that said, one or both teams may score a ton of runs – extending the length of the inning dramatically. Alternatively, maybe your team has an ace of a pitcher who’s capable of throwing three quick strikeouts, shortening your opponents’ time at bat.

What Are “Extra Innings” in Baseball?

The term “extra innings” refers to the innings that are played after the first nine regulation innings. These extra innings are unscheduled and occur as a result of a tie game.

Major League Baseball has not set a maximum amount of extra innings, meaning a game will go on until the home team takes the lead, or the visiting team inches ahead without the home team tying the game or taking the lead in response.

In the 2020 season, the MLB instituted a new rule that they referred to as the “extra innings rule.” This rule allowed each team to start their “extra innings” with a runner on second base – a change that has received mixed reviews from baseball clubs and fans alike.

This runner was planted on second base with the hope that the team’s next batter was ready to bring ‘em in and wrap up the game as quickly as possible.

How Long Do Baseball Games Usually Take?

Major League Baseball games tend to be around 3 hours long, with some falling closer to 2 hours and others surpassing the 4-hour mark. For more information on college and youth baseball games, click here.

Is there a Time Limit in Baseball?

In both the major and minor leagues there are technically no time limits regulating the length of games. Over the last five years, however, the MLB has made a significant number of changes to rules governing the pace of play to help shorten games. The NCAA aims to closely mirror the rules and regulations of the majors and has no time constraints.

High school ball on the other hand is a whole other can of worms! As previously noted, most high school athletics are regulated by the NFHS. The NFHS allows states to impose their own set of game-ending regulations, meaning that some high schools do have time limits.

Finally, it is suggested that the major division in Little League Baseball has a limit of 1 hour and 45 minutes, and the junior and senior divisions are limited to two hours.

How Many Innings Was the Longest Baseball Game?

The longest MLB game occurred in 1920 between the Brooklyn Robins and the Boston Braves. In an article about the longest games in MLB history, writer and statistician David Adler reminds us of the game that ended 1-1.

This 1-1 game between Brooklyn and Boston stretched through 26 innings that only lasted a mere four hours!

While the tie between the Robins and the Braves set a record for the MLB, Minor League Baseball gets the golden glove for the longest baseball game in history. Guinness World Records recognizes a game between the 1981 Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox as the longest game in baseball, which lasted for 33 innings.

This MiLB game ended 3-2, in favor of the Paw Sox, after eight hours’ worth of gameplay that stretched out over two days! There were 12 professional single-game records set during this game – including “most at bats,” “most strikeouts,” and “most plate appearances,” with Cal Ripken Jr. batting 15 times.

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Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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