Softball games last a certain number of innings or until the designated playing time is reached. Each inning gives the teams a chance to bat and put more runs on the board.
So, how many innings are in softball?
There are seven innings in a softball game, except for youth softball, which has six innings. Innings can be as quick as three consecutive outs, or they can be much longer if a team keeps scoring. If there is a mercy rule, the game may be shorter than seven innings.
This article explains how many innings are in softball games at each level and how long softball games and innings last. We will also cover how extra innings work and whether or not there is a time limit in softball.
How Many Innings Are in Softball?
Softball games usually have six or seven innings, depending on the level. Higher levels like high school and college play seven innings, whereas youth leagues play six.
When a softball game is seven innings long, each team will be in the field seven times, and each team will bat seven times.
However, not all softball games make it to the full number of innings. If the home team is winning in the seventh inning after the visiting team bats, there is no reason for them to bat again, and the game is over.
Or, sometimes, a mercy rule is in effect. If one team is winning by a significant amount after a certain number of innings, usually by eight runs in the second half of the game, the game will end, and the team who is up wins.
How Many Innings Are In a College Softball Game?
A college softball game has seven innings, although there are a few exceptions when there could be more or fewer innings in a game.
Here are the official NCAA softball rules regarding how many innings are in a game:
A regulation game shall be seven innings unless:
- The game is extended because of a tie score
- The game is shortened because:
- The home team needs none or only part of its half of the seventh inning to score more runs than the visiting team;
- The umpire declares the game called, forfeited, or halted; or
- The eight-run rule is invoked.
The first exception to the rule is if the game is tied after seven innings, in which case the game will go into extra innings. Teams play extra innings until one team breaks the tie, and we will explain this in detail later.
The other exception is the eight-run rule, which is a mercy rule. If one team is winning by eight or more runs after five or more innings, the game will end early, and the team who has the lead wins.
There are also situations where the umpire can end the game early for various reasons, including weather, a team forfeits, or the game needs to be paused and resumed at a later time for the safety of everyone on the field.
How Many Innings Are in a High School Softball Game?
There are seven innings in a high school softball game similar to college softball. As you will learn in the next section, girls who play softball at a high school level have already played seven-inning games for a few years now, so they are used to the pace of play.
How Many Innings Are in a Youth Softball Game?
Youth softball games have six or seven innings, depending on the age of the players. For the youngest players, usually at the tee-ball age and early elementary school ages, softball games are six innings long. At these levels, the players are still learning the game, and the pitching is not as fast as when the girls get older, so they only play six innings.
But, once the players are older, usually around the age of 9-11 depending on the league, softball games are seven innings long. Now that the players are older, they understand the game, and they are pitching faster, so they can play another inning without the games getting much longer.
How Long Are Softball Innings?
Softball innings have two halves similar to baseball: the top half when the visiting team is batting and the bottom half when the home team is batting.
Each half-inning lasts until there are three outs, and each full-inning has six outs, 3 for each team.
There is no set amount of time that a softball inning can last, and it can vary depending on the number of pitches the pitcher has to throw and the number of hits the team at bat gets.
The fastest a softball inning can be is three pitches long if each pitch results in a hit ball and an out. But innings can also last much longer if the team on the field struggles to get out and the batting team continues to get on base, whether by walking or hitting.
How Do Innings Work in Softball?
Innings in softball work like innings in baseball: One team is the visiting team, and they bat at the top of each inning while the home team is in the field. The top of the inning ends when the team in the field gets three outs.
Then the bottom of the inning starts, and the teams switch. This means the home team bats and the visiting team is on the field. Like the top of the inning, the home team continues to bat until the visiting team gets three outs.
After the top and the bottom of the inning, they move on to the next inning, continuing just like this until the end of the game.
Are there Extra Innings in Softball?
There are extra innings in a softball game if the game is tied after all the regulation innings are complete, which is six or seven innings.
When there are extra innings in softball, they work just like regular innings such that the visiting team bats in the top of the inning until there are three outs, then the home team bats in the second half of the inning until there are three outs.
If the visiting team takes the lead at the top of an extra-inning, the home team still has the opportunity to bat and tie the game. Or the home team can win if they score more runs than the visiting team.
But if the home team takes the lead during the bottom of an extra-inning, the game ends, and the home team wins. If the game is still tied at the end of an extra-inning, they will play another extra-inning and continue playing until one team scores more than the other and wins.
How Long Do Softball Games Usually Take?
Softball games take less time than baseball games since they are seven innings long instead of nine. Seven innings of softball usually take around two hours. But, it is hard to predict exactly how long a softball game will last since there is no set time limit for each inning.
Games might be faster than two hours if teams are not scoring much and the innings are fast. Or, if teams score a lot, the innings will be longer than normal, and the game will take more than two hours.
If a game goes into extra innings, it can take much longer than two hours, depending on how many extra innings need to be played.
Is there a Time Limit in Softball?
No, there is no time limit in softball. The game goes until the seven innings are complete, or six and a half if the home team is winning.
However, sometimes softball leagues, usually leagues for young kids, will play with a time limit and a set number of innings. The game will end when the first of the two limits is reached.
Leagues implement a time limit on softball games for young, elementary school-age kids since these games move at a slower pace. As the girls are learning the game and their pitching skills are still developing, many games don’t reach the full number of innings before the time limit is up. If they waited to complete every inning, the games would take much longer than the standard two hours.
The only times that a high school or college softball game will be limited in time is if it is during a tournament or there are back-to-back games such as a JV game than a varsity game in high school. There will be a time limit in these situations so that the next game can start on time.
Even though there isn’t a time limit for high school and college-level softball games, there is a time limit for how long teams have to warm up between innings. Usually, they have 90 seconds to get on the field and start the next inning after the next one ends. If there was no limit to how long teams had between innings to start the next one, games could last much longer.
What’s the Longest Softball Game on Record?
The longest softball game in NCAA history lasted 31 innings.
The game between Creighton and Utah was an elimination game that Creighton had to win if they didn’t want their season to end. It started on May 11, 1991, at 6 p.m., and it didn’t end till almost 7 hours later at 12:25 a.m. on May 12.
Creighton won the game 1 to 0, which meant that the season continued for them, and they had to play another game against Utah.
What makes the story even crazier is that the two teams played the second game only 20 minutes after the 31 inning game ended, and the second game lasted 25 innings and took another five and a half hours to complete.
Creighton played 56 innings and almost 12 hours of softball between the two games.
There was another 25 inning softball game in 1984 during the Women’s College World Series between Texas A&M and Cal Poly Pomona. This game started on Thursday, May 24, 1984, and they played 22 1/2 innings before they had to pause the game because of rain.
The next day after the rain stopped, they played two and a half more innings. After two days and 25 innings, Texas A&M beat Cal Poly Pomona 1 to 0.