How many innings are played in a full softball game? You would be surprised to find that a good majority of young softball players today don’t know the answer to this question. I used the word ‘full’ in the opening question because ‘full’ length games are rarely played anymore. When was the last time you or your players played a full seven-inning softball game? There it is, the answer to the question. Seven innings are played in a full-length softball game.
It’s baffling to me when I ask kids how many innings are in a softball game; the sport they play, and their answer is something less than seven. I also get the kids who give me a blank stare because they don’t even have an educated guess. When did this happen, where kids who play the sport, don’t know how many innings constitute a complete game?
In the off-season months, especially in the midwest and northern states, softball is played indoors. Sports Domes are the most common venue where games are held. Due to limited space and the overflowing number of teams who want to get games in during the winter months, games are played off of a time limit. This time limit varies but the average Dome game in the state of Minnesota is anywhere from 60-70 minutes. That is not much time, especially for the 10U group where pitching and defense take some lumps. The average 10U game completed in that time frame will typically last three to four innings.
Let’s think about the summer months because time limit games typically apply to most tournaments being played in across the country. The difference between the time limit games played in the summer compared to winter months is that there is more time given. Most tournaments will advertise 75-90 minute games with drop dead times. The Championship game at some tournaments will be the only seven-inning complete game played. Keep in mind, only two teams in the whole tournament will reach that game. With that being said, at least the players participating in these tournaments will play more than three to four innings, unlike in dome ball. Still, these time limit games are taking away from the sport.
When thinking about the younger age groups, time limit games make sense for league games. Many league games are played on fields after work hours without lights. Seven inning double headers probably wouldn’t work out too well for many of the 10U groups as well as the older groups where the inning by inning ‘run rule’ doesn’t apply. But that’s not the point of writing this article.
Softball games at the high school, college, and Professional level are played in full seven inning games. Are we hurting the younger players by shortening games and implementing a time limit? Are the younger pitchers going to have the endurance to pitch seven full innings by the time they get to high school ball? What about the catchers? Catching a three or four inning game seems a lot easier on the legs than a full seven inning game. High School coaches aren’t going to switch catchers halfway through a game because the starter gets tired. These are questions we need to start thinking and talking about because right now from an outsider’s perspective, the game and the direction it is going in is in trouble.
There are seven innings in a full softball game. Let’s get back to playing those at all age levels.