Baseball and softball are unique when compared to most other youth sports. Neither has a set time limit and both require the defense to achieve a specific goal – three outs per inning – in order for the game to advance.
Understanding this distinction, while recognizing that the players are children of varied abilities, makes it easier for anyone to appreciate the importance of pace of play in Little League Baseball® and Little League Softball® games.
NOTE: Beginning with the 2023 Little League season, an 8-run rule option was implemented FOR REGULAR SEASON ONLY. Following the same intent as the “10-run” and “15-run rules” the language in rule 4.10 (e) now also states that a local league my chose to implement an 8-run rule after five [six innings for Intermediate (50-70) Division/Junior/Senior League]. This 10-run and 15-run rule (Tournament Rule 12) is mandatory during the International Tournament.
Little League® rule 4.10(e), more commonly referred to as the “run rule,” was written to establish an accepted way for leagues to end games if the conventional means of recording outs proves to be a challenge. According to Little League’s Official Regulations, Playing Rules and Policies, rule 4.10 (e) states:
If after three (3) innings [Intermediate (50-70) Division/Junior/Senior League: four innings], two and one-half innings [Intermediate (50-70) Division/Junior/Senior League: three and one-half innings] if the home team is ahead, one team has a lead of fifteen (15) runs or more, the manager of the team with the least runs shall concede the victory to the opponent.
- If after five (5) innings [Intermediate (50-70) Division / Junior / Senior League: six innings], four and one-half innings [Intermediate (50-70) Division / Junior / Senior League: five and one-half innings], the home team is ahead, one team has a lead of eight (8) runs or more, the manager of the team with the least runs shall concede the victory to the opponent.
- NOTE: (1) If the visiting team has a lead of fifteen (15), ten (10), or eight (8) runs or more respectively, the home team must bat in its half of the inning. (2) The local league may adopt the option of not utilizing this rule. A game determined by the 15-run rule, 10-run rule, or 8-run rule shall be considered a regulation game.
Tournament Rule 12
RUN RULE: If at the end of three (3) innings [Intermediate (50-70) Division/Junior/Senior League: four innings], two and one-half innings [Intermediate (50-70) Division/Junior/Senior League: three and one-half innings] if the home team is ahead, one team has a lead of fifteen (15) runs or more, the manager of the team with the least runs shall concede the victory to the opponent. If at the end of a regulation game one team has a lead of ten (10) runs or more, the manager of the team with the least runs shall concede the victory to the opponent.
NOTE: If the visiting team has a lead of fifteen (15) or ten (10) or more runs respectively, the home team must bat in its half of the inning.
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While you’re watching games, keep in mind that there are several situations where the 8-, 10- or 15-run rule may come into play. To make the rule easier to understand, refer to these explanations and descriptions:
- The rule is designed to create thresholds to end a game in a fair and timely fashion. The 8-run rule is only in effect for regular season games.
- The use of the term “mercy rule” is a misnomer. The run rule is not in place to limit the number of runs a team can score in a game. Little League strongly urges you to refer to this as the 8-. 10-, or 15-run rule.
- Little League Baseball® games that are shortened by the run rule, regardless of division, must abide by all of the rules that define a “regulation” or “official” game, including pitching count eligibility rules. However, the mandatory play rule no longer applies.
- Little League Softball® is also governed by this run rule, but is not subject to the pitching regulation because it does not use pitch counts to determining a pitcher’s eligibility.
- Once a game is “official” (3 ½ innings for Major Division, and below; or 4 ½ innings for Intermediate (50/70) Baseball Division, Junior League, and Senior League) it can end by way of the run rule in any of these ways:
- If the visiting team’s lead reaches 8, 10 or 15 runs in the top half of inning, and the home team fails to score during its turn at-bat in the bottom of the same inning of an official game.
- If the home team establishes a 8, 10-or 15-run lead (in the bottom of the inning) of an official game.
- When the home team takes a lead of 8, 10 or 15 runs, the game ends immediately after the run that establishes the threshold lead is scored, regardless of how many other runs may have scored on the play; or the number of outs there are in the inning. Note: If runners are on base when a walk-off home run is hit to end the game (by way of the 10-run rule), all of the runs count toward the final score.
- The run rule is optional for local leagues during the regular season. The 10- and 15-run rule is mandatory during Little League International Tournament games.
- Since the run rule is optional during the regular season, a local league’s Board of Directors must decide to implement the rule for all divisions, or identify which divisions will be abiding by this rule throughout the regular season.
- Local leagues that interleague with other Little League programs, should establish prior to the game whether, or not, the run rule will be in effect.
- There is no other Little League playing rule that provides a different run threshold to end a game. No local league is allowed to establish a rule that supersedes or circumvents any official Little League rule or regulation.
When leagues choose NOT to use the 8-run rule, 10-run rule, or 15-run rule during the regular season, the possibility of lopsided scores is greatly increased, which, in turn, may adversely affect any child’s or parent’s Little League experience.