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The average length of a Major League Baseball game has been a popular topic of conversation recently, especially since the implementation of the new pitch clock rules in 2023. However, you might be wondering how long a high school baseball game usually lasts. Here is the answer you have been looking for.
A high school baseball game usually lasts about two hours. Unlike professional baseball games, which go for nine innings, high school baseball games typically go only seven innings. That means high school games tend to be significantly shorter than major league, minor league, or college games.
While two hours is the approximate running time of a high school game, it is important to remember that baseball is played without a game clock, so there is no minimum or maximum length of a game. If the innings go by quickly, it is not surprising to see a high school contest wrap up within ninety minutes. Conversely, a high-scoring game with longer innings could easily run two and a half hours or longer.
How Many Innings Are in a High School Baseball Game?
Most American high school baseball games last seven innings. While some schools may play with different rules, seven-inning games are much more common than nine-inning games at the high school level.
Why Is a High School Baseball Game Only Seven Innings?
The two main reasons high school baseball games are only seven innings long are (1) to ensure games end before sundown and (2) to protect the health of young players.
Unlike professional games, high school games have to be scheduled around the players’ school schedules. This means games typically start after school hours, at around 4:00 or 4:30. Furthermore, unlike professional stadiums, high school baseball diamonds often do not have powerful flood lights on the field. Therefore, it is important to keep games under three hours, to reduce the risk that the players will have to play in dark conditions after the sun begins to set. Darkness makes it difficult for pitchers to see the plate, batters to see pitches, and fielders to see the ball.
Keeping games shorter also helps to protect young players from injury. This is especially true for pitchers. Even at the major league level, teams are careful to limit their pitchers’ workloads to keep them healthy. If a pitcher throws too many pitches or innings in a game, that pitcher will be at a higher risk of getting injured. This is particularly true for high school students, who have not trained and built up the necessary strength and endurance to play long games.
8 Factors Affecting High School Baseball Game Duration
- Number of innings in a game: Unlike MLB and college games, a high school baseball game usually lasts only seven innings. This is the most important factor influencing the length of a high school baseball game.
- Extra innings: While a typical high school game lasts seven innings, teams will play extra innings in the event of a tie. Typically, extra innings continue until one team holds the lead at the end of an inning. However, most high school umpires will eventually call a game if extra innings have gone on for too long or it is getting too dark to play.
- Start time: Unlike MLB and college games, high school baseball usually is not broadcast on TV or radio. That means it is not quite as important for games to start precisely on schedule. If both teams are ready to play, games can start earlier than planned. In the same vein, if one team or the other is not ready to begin, game time can be pushed back.
- Scoring: Typically, high-scoring games last longer than low-scoring games. This is because baseball games are measured in outs, rather than time. Runners must reach base in order to score, and reaching base is the opposite of getting out. Therefore, the more a team scores in an inning, the longer the inning is going to last. Conversely, the fastest innings are 1-2-3 innings, when all three batters that come to the plate get out. Needless to say, no one can score in a 1-2-3 inning.
- Pitch tempo: Some pitchers take much more time in between pitches than others. In 2023, Major League Baseball implemented a pitch clock to help address this issue and standardize the length of time between pitches. However, most high school baseball games do not use a pitch clock. High school pitchers can take as much time as they need between pitches. Over the course of a full game, a few extra seconds between each pitch can really add up.
- Pitching changes: As a general rule, the more pitching changes the coaches make, the longer a game will take. This is especially true when a pitching change takes place in the middle of an inning. New pitchers need time to warm up, so every time a new pitcher enters the game, you can expect the game to last a bit longer.
- Time between innings: Unlike in professional games, which tend to have strict schedules between each inning for advertising purposes, the length of time between innings in high school games can vary widely. If the players are quick to take the field and the umpires are quick to restart play, games can wrap up much sooner.
- Umpires: It is up to the umpires to formally begin each game, restart the game after each half-inning, and time mound visits and pitching changes. Therefore, a stricter umpire is likely to call a shorter game, while a more lenient umpire — who allows for longer inning breaks, mound visits, etc. — is likely to call a longer game.
Can a High School Baseball Game End in a Tie?
As a general rule, a high school baseball game cannot end in a tie. If a game is tied after the completion of seven innings, it will go into extra innings.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If a game has lasted too long or it is getting too dangerous to play (due to inclement weather or darkness), the umpires may choose to call the game early, even if the score is tied.
Do High School Baseball Games Have Extra Innings?
Yes, high school baseball games can go into extra innings. If the score is tied after seven innings have been played, the game will go into the eighth inning (and then the ninth inning, and so on, until there is a winner).
What Is the Mercy Rule/Run Rule in High School Baseball?
A mercy rule, also known as a run rule, is a rule that can end a game before seven innings have been played. More specifically, a mercy rule is used to end a game when one team has built up a substantial lead and the other team is highly unlikely to stage a comeback.
Different governing bodies of high school baseball have different mercy rules. Each individual mercy rule must stipulate (a) the number of runs the winning team must be leading by and (b) the inning in which the mercy rule will take effect.
For example, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association uses a “10-run rule.” The rule comes into effect if “the visiting team is behind 10 or more runs after 4 1/2 innings, or after the fifth inning, if either team is 10 runs behind and both teams have had an equal number of times at bat.”
What Is the Longest High School Game Ever Played?
Records of high school baseball games are not kept quite as closely as records of professional games. However, as far as we know, the longest official high school baseball game in the USA took place in San Lorenzo, California. Hayward High School and San Lorenzo High School went back and forth for a whopping 25 innings on May 2, 1975.
What Is the Shortest High School Game Ever Played?
Typically, a high school baseball game lasts seven innings. However, under certain extreme circumstances (such as poor weather or low light) an umpire can call a game early. As long as four full innings have been completed, and one team is in the lead, the game will be considered official.
Therefore, the shortest official high school baseball games on record are all of the games that lasted just four innings.
How Long Does One Inning Last in Baseball?
Every inning is broken up into two half innings, each of which lasts as long as it takes for the fielding team to record three outs.
The shortest innings are usually 1-2-3 innings. If both teams record a 1-2-3 inning in their half of the inning (meaning every batter who comes to the plate gets out), then the inning might only last a few minutes.
Conversely, the longest innings are those in which one or both teams struggle to make an out. Long innings can last well upwards of thirty minutes, and the longest inning in MLB history took more than an hour to complete.
How Long Do Major League Baseball Games Last?
In 2023, the average nine-inning MLB game lasted approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes. The year before, the average game time was over three hours, but the introduction of the pitch clock reduced game times by nearly 30 minutes.
How Long Do College Baseball Games Last?
College baseball games are usually nine innings long, like MLB games. However, they tend to take a bit longer to play. The average college baseball game lasts a little over three hours.