Most high school baseball games last seven innings, which usually take one-and-a-half to two hours to complete. That’s just a general rule of thumb, though, and there are several factors that can affect the actual length of a high school baseball game.
Here are some situations that can cause a HS game to go long or finish early.
Home Team Leads After Top of Seventh Inning
If the home team leads after the away team bats in the top of the seventh inning, then the game ends without playing the bottom of the inning. That’s because the outcome is already certain — the home team can only add to their lead, so there is no point in them batting again.
Skipping that last half an inning can shave 10-15 minutes off the length of a game.
On the other hand, if the score is tied after seven full innings, then the game may go into extra innings. In some cases, and in some high school leagues, though, the game will end in a tie.
If the game does go to extra innings, then each team will get to bat at least once, and often multiple times as long as the score remains tied at the end of each inning. in some leagues, though, there may be a limit to the number of extra innings teams can play before a game is declared a tie.
The mercy rule allows umpires to end a game if one team is leading by a certain number of runs after a certain point in the game. Often, the rule kicks in if one team is up by 10 or more runs by the start of the fourth inning or later.
Not all high school leagues play under a mercy rule, which is often also called a 10-run rule.
A game that’s called after four innings based on the mercy rule usually ends significantly earlier than a fulll seven-inning game would. But that’s not always the case since a high-scoring game features more batters and generally lasts longer than a low-scoring game of the same inning length.
Some high school leagues have instituted a pitch clock. Public high school teams in Arizona, for example began playing under a 20-second pitch clock in 2023. Under this scheme, the pitcher must deliver each pitch within 20 seconds of taking the ball and stepping on the pitching rubber.
A similar pitch clock instituted in Major League Baseball at the beginning of 2023 saved an estimated 26 minutes per game on Opening Day. That’s a 15-20% time savings over the traditional three-hour game!
Game Score and Other Game Statistics
As mentioned above, more batters come to the plate during a high-scoring game than during a low-scoring game. So, barring an early ending from the mercy rule, a game that features a lot of runs will last longer than average.
Likewise, a pitcher who throws a lot of strikeouts will have to make more pitches than a hurler who gets lots of ground-ball outs. That can also affect the length of a game, as can the number of walks a team draws. Generally speaking, more strikeouts and/or more walks leads to a longer game.
Postponed, Cancelled, or Forfeited Games
Games can end early for reasons that have nothing to do with the score. Among those are :
- Postponement due to bad weather, darkness, or other external conditions or developments
- Cancellation due to any of the same reasons as listed above
- Forfeiture by one team due to breaking the rules or another reason.
Any of these decisions by umpires shorten a game compare to a full seven-inning tilt.
Did you know? The first high school player taken in the June Draft to skip the minor leagues and step directly onto a major league roster was left-hander David Clyde. The Texas Rangers drafted Clyde with the #1 overall pick in 1973, and he made his debut in The Show before the end of the month (June 27).