What Are Innings in Softball? A Comprehensive Guide


Innings are used to format games such as cricket, softball, baseball, or others to a similar effect. They are used as the basic unit of play, formed in two halves named the top half and the bottom half. In each half, one team will be batting, and one team will be playing defense, then swapping over during the bottom half to reverse roles. 

Softball earned its name because originally when the game was first invented, they did in fact use a soft-ball. This has now changed in the modern version to a hard-ball of 11 to 12 inches in circumference unless practiced by children under 13 who tend to use a foam ball. Women also use smaller playing balls than men. 

Softball has its similarities to baseball, but the differences lie in softball having a bigger ball and smaller pitch. As a result of this softball is generally thought to be faster paced than baseball is. 

Originally softball was first intended as an indoor game but through time has varied. The sport was first introduced into the Olympic Games in Atlanta during 1996 as a women only medal sport. The rankings of this concluded The United States of America in first place, China in second place and Australia in third. 

How Many Innings Are In a Softball Vs. Baseball Game?

A typical baseball game in its entirety consists of nine innings, whereas a softball game uses the slighter small amount of seven. However, the longest game of softball ever recorded lasted for a whopping 31 Innings covering almost 7 hours and requiring more than 700 pitches in order to reach game completion. This game was played between Utah and Creighton, starting on May 11th in 1991. 

Some leagues may work with time restrictions rather than innings, meaning this could be more or less depending on how the game has been played on that particular day. In colleges games can be completed after 5 innings in which one team is winning by 8 or more runs. 

Odd numbers of innings are used to determine the final winning score and in an attempt to prevent even rack ups from happening. Scoring is done built on how many home runs are achieved during each inning. Depending on the length of the game the number of innings can be altered from anything above 3, however, this can be modified due to weather conditions or other relevant factors.

If the game does end up in a tie score extended innings will be added on until a winning team emerges. Again this will be rested upon the total number of home runs. 

What is a Half Inning?

A half inning will formerly start when the umpire calls “play” or “play ball.” A softball game abides of 18 players with 9 per team. Each half of the inning will not end until meeting 3 outs, which I will discuss later. Normally the visiting team will bat first whilst the home team takes the field. Although it is allowed to skip first base, all other bases must be covered by the runner whilst in numerical order. 

In addition to this, batters must maintain the same batting order in each inning. If the team is varied between men and women, the line up should be rotated steadily. In coordination to softball regulations, both of the pitcher’s feet must be placed on the rubber before throwing the ball.

During the event of a tiebreaker, one more inning will be played in its entirety to allow both teams an equal chance to score. The runner during this is the 9th batter, so the one who played least recently. To make the points speedier, this time the runners will start on the second base point. If again this ends in an equal score, another inning will be played, and so on.

How Long Does An Inning Last In Softball?

The average length of a softball game is around 2 hours, meaning mathematically, each inning would be just over 17 minutes. This is subject to change, of course, and the average doesn’t always apply. For an inning to end, there need to be 6 outs, 3 on each team. When the batting team in the top half reaches 3 outs, the roles are reversed, and the opposing team, who were previously on the field, bat until they swing 3 outs. Without this happening, the inning will carry on until it does. 

Putting a player out can only be done under certain conditions. Firstly, to immediately put a batter out, a member of the opposing team will have to catch the ball while still in the air. Even if it is in foul territory, it will still count, giving the player prompt 3 strikes and causing strikeout.

A batter will put themselves out if they miss the ball 3 times, also occurring in a strike. A steal exists when the batting player runs when they are not entitled to, meaning they didn’t actually hit the ball or touch base with it. This could be done mistakenly, but whatever the reason, this will result in an out for the player.

To put a runner out they need to be hit/touched by the ball when they are not on a base i.e. running to the next. Continuing, they will also be out if they go more than 3 strides off course in order to avoid being tagged by the ball. The given allowance for offfield courses is 91 cm. If a fielder touches the ball to a base during a forced run before the runner reaches the base, they are out. Finally, a runner is out if they overtake a runner ahead of them.

Final Word…

With all this information given it becomes more obvious how game times can vary. No game will be entirely the same as any other which makes for an interesting watch towards the opinion of spectators. The variety of the course could depend on a number of things from skill, chance, weather, and competition level from the opponents.

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