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College Baseball 101: The Seventh-Inning and Mercy Rules

The Seventh-Inning And Mercy Rules Made Easy

The Mercy Rule is reserved for games like this...
The Mercy Rule is reserved for games like this...
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Welcome back to another post in our College Baseball 101 series. Last time, I delved into the NCAA rules on composite/metal baseball bats. My fellow musketeer, MarshallMarks, has also taken some time to discuss the College World Series. This time around the bases, I'll briefly explore two big differences between college and professional baseball, the seventh inning and mercy rules.

One common refrain among casual college baseball fans can be heard every season – exactly how many innings are they supposed to play? Is it seven? Is it nine? Fortunately, the answer isn't too complicated. Ordinarily, the NCAA prefers that teams play full nine-inning games. By further clarifying exactly when a game can be seven innings, they have recently begun to openly encourage teams to have as many nine-inning games as possible. There are two specific exceptions to this policy. Seven-inning games are allowed if (A) it's the final day of an intra-conference series or (B) two teams (in a non-conference match) have a scheduled double header. Because these certain circumstances are fairly uncommon, an overwhelming majority of games in college last the full nine innings.

Another rule that separates the different levels of baseball is the mercy rule – which means that one team forfeits a game when the opposing team has a 10-run lead after seven innings. If the game is already scheduled for seven innings, the mercy rule applies in the fifth. Certain conferences have particular tweaks on the rule, applying it only for Sunday games or the final day of a conference series (in an effort to aid the visiting team with travel restrictions). In other conferences, the mercy rule is only permitted if there is a tournament with schedule constraints. Despite all of these selective applications, each and every baseball team feels the same way about the mercy rule – they'd  always rather be the team with a 10-run lead.

Well, that will conclude this outing. But rest assured, we'll be back right quick with more college baseball coverage. Just in case you're curious, we'll be getting past the introductory stuff and into the Xavier-specific nitty gritty real soon...