Unlike other sports, baseball is not timed using a clock (although non-professional baseball leagues can have time limits). Instead, baseball uses innings, and each game can have a different number of innings. The number of innings played can vary from the type of league and the level of the league, however, there is a standard regulation or official minimum number of innings set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
The official number of innings for a college baseball game is nine innings. However, the number of innings can be extended if the game is tied after the final inning. Additionally, games can end quicker than nine innings when the ten-run rule is in effect or when teams have a doubleheader.
Did you know that the longest college baseball game had 25 innings? The game lasted for over just over seven hours, which shows two things. First, a baseball game has no time limits. Secondly, the number of innings can change depending on the game’s rules.
What Factors Determine the Number of Innings in A College Baseball Game?
1. The Mercy Rule Ends a Game Early
Have you ever wondered why a baseball game has ended early? Out of the 7 ways to end a baseball game, the mercy rule is one of the more well-known rules in baseball. But is there a mercy rule in college baseball?
College baseball has a mercy rule, also known as the ten-run rule, that goes into effect after one team is leading by ten or more runs after completing seven innings. The team leading by ten or more runs is declared the winner.
Similarly, if a game was scheduled for seven innings, and by the fifth inning, a team is winning by ten or more runs, the game is called, and a winner is declared. For more information on this rule, I recommend reading what is the 10 run rule in baseball.
2. Doubleheader Games Can be Scheduled for 7 Innings
A doubleheader is when two teams play each other two times on the same day.
While the NCAA prefers doubleheader games to be nine innings, it does allow one or both of the doubleheader games to be scheduled as a 7 inning game. A lot of the time, teams will play seven innings because the players might be exhausted, which affects their performance.
In college baseball, the number of innings played during doubleheaders can be scheduled in three different ways. These are:
- Two nine-inning games
- One nine-inning game and one seven-inning game
- Two seven-inning games
The managers make the decision of scheduling depending on what they think is best for the players and the team.
3. The Last Game of an Intra-Conference Series can be 7 Innings
The last game of an intra-conference series is the only other time the NCAA allows a game to be shortened to seven innings.
This usually allows players enough travel time to get to their next game, depending on the travel restrictions.
4. Tie Games Keep Going Until One Team Wins
If both teams are tied at the end of the ninth inning, the game will have to go into extra innings. There is no cap on the number of extra innings the teams should play. Therefore, the game will continue until there is a clear winner.
The longest college baseball game ever played was 25 innings for a total of 7 hours and 3 minutes. This game was between Texas and Boston College on May 30, 2009.
There are also lots of other college baseball games that have lasted 20 innings or more. Check out this article from NCAA to see the list of the longest college baseball games in D1 history.
5. Weather Can End Games Early
Weather is impossible to predict when games are scheduled so it’s inevitable a game will either be canceled or end early due to weather conditions.
If at least five innings have been completed, a college baseball game can end early due to weather and the team who is winning will be declared the winner of that game. Any game ending before 5 innings have been completed will be declared a “no game” and teams will need to reschedule.
The one exception to this rule is that if the home team is leading while in the bottom of the fifth inning and the game ends early due to weather, the home team will be declared the winner. So technically, college baseball games can be as short as 4 and a half innings.
Some people may also find it strange that baseball games aren’t played in the rain while other sports, like football, are allowed to continue in the rain. Learn why baseball is different by reading the 9 reasons why baseball isn’t played in the rain.
6. Forfeited Games Can Result in No Innings Played
While forfeiting a game is always a last resort, there are some games that will be forfeited. Baseball games can be forfeited at any time which means that a team could win a game by playing as few as zero innings.
If one team forfeits the game before the game even starts, the other team wins and no innings will be played.
What are Extra Innings, and How Do They Work in College Baseball?
An extra inning is any inning played after the official nine innings in a baseball game. Extra innings only occur when the game ends in a tie. There is no maximum amount of extra innings. Therefore, the game continues until either team takes the lead.
An extra inning has the same format as a normal inning, meaning each team gets three outs. Following MLB’s lead in 2021, NCAA baseball changed extra inning rules to include an “automatic runner”. Now, extra innings have no outs, and a “designated runner” starts on second base.
Additionally, the runner in each half-inning should be the person who made the last out in the previous inning. These rules aim to make the game end as quickly as possible. This rule came in handy during the pandemic as seasons were much shorter than usual.
Do Doubleheaders have Extra Innings?
Even though double headers might have fewer innings, extra innings are allowed if the game ends in a tie. The extra innings in a doubleheader work the same way as in all baseball games. This means they have no limit, and each half-inning begins with a runner on second base.
How Long is One Inning in College Baseball?
The average time of an inning in baseball is 20 minutes. However, this can vary depending on the players’ skills. For example, in rookie leagues, the innings can take longer because the players’ pitching and batting skills are not as good when compared to professional leagues.
In professional or high-level conference tournaments, the players are more experienced, which reduces the overall time for an inning during a game.
How do You Measure an Inning in Baseball?
Innings work the same way in all baseball games, regardless of the level. Baseball innings are measured by the number of outs and divided into two parts: the top inning and the bottom inning. One inning has a total of six outs, and each team gets three.
Learn more about the top and bottom parts of an inning by reading this article on what is “BOT” in baseball.
A standard regulation game has 54 outs, but depending on which team gets to bat first in the last inning, there could be 51 outs in the game. For example, a visiting team is allowed to play first in the ninth inning if they are losing the game. If they are unable to lead within the top half of the inning, the game ends, resulting in 51 outs.