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For fans who enjoy baseball but find it difficult to stay the entire length of a professional game, high school baseball games may be a great alternative. What the teams and players may lack in talent compared to Major Leaguers they make up for in passion and effort. On top of that, high school games only last seven innings, two innings shorter than a professional game. These two innings make a huge difference when it comes to the length of a game.
The average high school baseball game lasts between an hour and a half to two hours. The length of the game depends on several variables including how quickly outs are made, how many pitchers are used, how many runs are scored, and many more.
Time limits are typical at lower levels of baseball but are unusual at the high school level. This means that the game is not over until all 21 outs are made unless the mercy rule/run rule (to be discussed later) comes into effect.
What are the Variables that Contribute to the Length of a Baseball Game?
One of the variables that greatly influences the length of any baseball game is how quickly outs are made, and high school games are no exception. If hitters are frequently going deep into counts vs. getting a hit or making an out within the first 2-3 pitches, then the game is likely to last much longer.
This requires the pitcher to throw more pitches which in turn makes it less likely for that pitcher to pitch the entire game. High school associations typically have pitch count limits which results in more frequent pitching changes. With each pitching change comes mound visits and breaks in the game to allow the new pitcher to warm up. This just adds more time to the game.
This is why Major League Baseball has implemented a rule that limits the number of mound visits a team is allowed to make each game to five. Some high school associations may have implemented a similar rule, but that is not necessarily a nation-wide custom at this point in time.
Games with high run totals also tend to run much longer than games with lower totals because more runs are a byproduct of lots of baserunners. The more baserunners (whether via hit, walk, error, etc.) the longer an inning lasts. Most high school leagues do not have run limits per inning like some little leagues do, so it is up to the team on defense to make all three outs before getting to come in to hit.
When a team struggles to get people out, it can really drive up the length of the game. When both teams struggle to get people out, it creates a high scoring affair that is liable to last much longer than the average two hour game.
There are several other factors that can contribute to the length of the game, but these three seem to be the main contributors.
What is the Mercy Rule/Run Rule in High School Baseball?
Many high school associations have what is known as a run rule (also known as mercy rule) in order to prevent one team from being embarrassed by another.
Each league has a set number of run differential over a certain number of innings that would enact the run rule and end the game immediately. The National Federation for High School Sports (NFHS), the governing body that most high school baseball associations follow, allows a run rule to go into effect when one team leads another by ten or more runs after five innings (or four and a half if the home team is ahead).
Some leagues also have run rules after three and four innings if the lead is more than ten. For example, some leagues may allow for a run rule to take place if a team is ahead by 15 runs or more after three innings.
Typically, a game is not considered a complete game unless five complete innings are played, but some associations have decided that a run differential of 15 or more after only three innings is enough to call a game official. This saves the losing team from embarrassment and saves quite a bit of time.
The main purpose of the run rule is to keep teams from running up the score on another and not ruin the self esteem of the young players, but it also saves players and fans quite a bit of time at the ballpark. Very few fans want to stick around and watch a blowout game for all seven innings. That could last upwards of three hours, and high school players can’t afford to be out too late on school nights.
What is the Longest High School Game Ever Played?
Different states have different policies and ways they go about keeping accurate records, so finding official records for all of high school baseball across the country is rather difficult. With that being said, The Ponca City News in Oklahoma published an article in April of 2020 about a high school game that happened in 1970.
The game between Ponca City High School and Bartlesville College (a high school team) lasted 22 innings with Bartlesville winning the game 2-1. The game started at 4pm and ended at 9:30 pm, triple the amount of time the average high school game lasts.
Ron Davis, a player in the game and now an assistant coach at Ponca City, says in the article that he has done quite a bit of research on the topic and could only find an American Legion game that lasted 24 innings. He was never able to find a high school game that took place over more innings or more hours than the one he played in in 1970.
What is the Shortest High School Game Ever Played?
One of the shortest complete high school baseball games ever played took place in Paintsville, KY between the Rowan County Senior High School Vikings and the Paintsville High School Tigers in 2001. The seven inning game lasted only 49 minutes.
Paintsville won the game 1-0 on a throwing error that scored the only hit they recorded in the game. Both teams combined for only three hits and three strikeouts throughout the entire game. Both starting pitchers went the distance for their teams.
This proves yet again that fewer pitching changes and fewer runs scored result in quicker games. Also, the limited number of strikeouts contributed to the brevity of this game as more hitters made contact early in the count resulting in fewer pitches thrown.
As is true with many high school records, there is a chance that there have been shorter games played that just haven’t been recorded.
What is the Longest MLB Game Ever Played?
Finding records for MLB games is much easier than it is for high school games.
The longest game ever in MLB history took place in 1984 between the Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers. The game lasted eight hours and six minutes over 25 innings.
The Cubs won the game 7-6. A veteran Tom Seaver came on in relief in the 25th inning to pick up his second win of the season.
The longest nine inning game in Major League history was between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in 2006. The Yankees won that game 14-11 over four hours and 45 minutes. There were a total of 34 hits and 13 walks in the game proving yet again that more baserunners results in longer games.
What is the Shortest MLB Game Ever Played?
In 1919, The New York Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies faced off at the Polo Grounds. The Giants won 6-1 in a game that lasted only 51 minutes. Both pitchers threw complete games with Jesse Barnes of the Giants taking the win and Lee Meadows of the Phillies taking the loss.
Barnes was efficient in getting his outs striking out only two batters but walking no one. Scoring six runs is a lot for such a quick game. That is because, according to the New York Daily News, both teams agreed to chase the record books for the quickest game ever played which was previously 56 minutes recorded the year before between the Giants and the Brooklynn Dodgers.
Both teams likely rushed on and off the field and agreed to swing early in the count.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average length of a Major League Baseball game?
According to espn.com, the average Major League game in 2019 lasted three hours and five minutes. This is actually up five minutes from 2018 where the average game lasted three hours on the dot. ESPN notes that in 2005, the average MLB game lasted two hours and 46 minutes. This rise in time of game has resulted in the MLB taking measures to implement pace of play rules to speed up the game.
What are the new pace of play rules?
There are several new rules that the league has implemented to speed up the pace of play. Some of these rules include limiting the number of mound visits, implementing a pitch clock between pitches, and limiting the amount of time between innings.
Why do high school teams only play seven innings?
The main reason for this is time. Obviously, it takes less time to play seven innings than innings (on most days). High school students simply don’t have the luxury of having flexibility with their time like college student athletes and professionals. Also, high school teams don’t have the pitching depth that colleges and professional teams have. Playing less innings limits the strain on pitchers at that level.
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