With a sport as dynamic and exciting as softball, you often don’t even notice that the game has flown by and it’s already the last inning.
Unlike baseball, where games sometimes seem to drag forever, in softball the winner is known much faster.
Plus, there’s much more action on the field, so the time the game takes often seems even shorter than it actually is.
However, a lot of people, including players, parents, and fans, make their schedules around softball games.
So, it’s important to know how long do softball games last.
Below, you’ll learn how much time you need to set aside for a softball game and what determines how long they last.
How Long Do Softball Games Last?
Softball doesn’t have a specific runtime like some other sports where the games are divided into periods with a specific duration.
In softball games, there’s no clock measuring time. Similar to baseball, the game length is determined by the number of innings.
Depending on the various factors, like the league, specific rules, age category, or version of softball, a game can last from 3 to 7 innings and is usually finished in 1 to 2 hours.
However, longer or shorter games are also possible.
High-school, college, and pro softball games commonly last from 7 innings. This is also the length of the games at the Olympics.
In case of a tie at the end of the game, extra innings are played, extending a game a bit more.
At the youth and kids level, teams often play only 3 or 5 innings.
Sometimes, there is a deviation from the standard length of the game, for various reasons.
In some leagues, there’s a time limit for the games.
No matter how many innings have been played, the game finishes when the time runs out.
This often happens in the tournament play when there are a lot of games scheduled on the same day at the same venue.
For example in the states with colder climates, offseason softball is played indoors. There are usually played in sports domes.
As there are not that many of those in every city or town, the schedule gets crowded and the time limit is imposed so that everyone would get a chance to play.
There’s also a matter of games played at ballparks without lights. The umpire may call the game due to the darkness.
Games are also sometimes cut short due to the bad weather or curfew.
What is Mercy Rule in Softball?
Another reason why softball games may end before all the innings are played is the so-called “mercy rule”.
The mercy rule is applied when one of the teams has amassed a score that is unlikely to be caught up by the opposition.
The rule cuts the game short and saves the losing team from further embarrassment.
In fast-pitch softball, the mercy rule comes into play if one team leads by 15 runs after 3 innings of play, 10 runs after 4 innings, or 7 after the fifth inning.
In slow-pitch softball, the mercy rule is applied when the margin is 20 runs after 4 innings or 15 after 5. College softball has a mercy rule of 8 runs after 5 innings.
What are Innings in Softball?
Just like in baseball, innings are basic units of play in softball, too.
An inning involves two halves. In each half, one team bats while the other plays defense.
Usually, the away team bats in the top half and plays defense in the bottom half of the inning.
How Long Does a Softball Inning Last?
Each half-inning lasts until the batting team reaches three outs.
When a team batting in the top half records 3 outs, the roles are reversed with the other team taking the bat in the bottom half.
In each inning, batters keep the same batting order.
The batter is put out when he or she misses the ball three times or if a player of the opposing team catches the ball while still in the air.
A runner is put out when he or she is hit or touched by the ball while not on base.
Plus, they’re also out if they make more than three strides to avoid getting tagged by the ball or if they overtake a runner ahead of them.
Are There Extra Innings in Softball?
In case that a softball game ends in a tie after regular innings, the team will play an extra inning(s) to determine a winner.
Play continues until one of the teams has scored more runs at the end of a complete inning.
Some leagues have the rule that if no team has scored more runs after two innings, the game is declared a tie.
The team on offense will start the extra inning with the player bated last in the regular innings as a runner at the second base.
What is the Longest Softball Game Ever Played?
The longest recorded softball game ever took place in Alberta, Canada in 2009.
Team Stollery and Team Cross planed 721 innings over 115 hours and 3 minutes.
However, this was a charity game but is still recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.
As for the official games, the matchup that is usually recognized as the longest is the NCAA game between Creighton and Utah Softball.
It took place on May 11 and 12, 1991 during the Western Athletic Conference softball tournament in Omaha, Nebraska.
Two teams played for almost 7 hours in a game that spanned 31 innings. The game required more than 700 pitches to complete.
Interestingly, the two teams played again only half an hour after the first game was finished.
The second game was another marathon contest, lasting 25 innings.
Some fans prefer games to be finished as soon as possible so they can get on with their daily duties.
Others enjoy long-lasting showdowns and savor every moment.
As you can see, in softball, both groups sometimes get their way. The length of a softball game varies but rarely lasts more than two hours.
That’s still much shorter than an average baseball game and, in addition, the softball showdowns are way more packed with action.
If you want to know how much a particular softball game may last, make sure to check the league rules and the age of the players involved.