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Rule 4 - Starting & Ending the Game


4-1-1   The home coach shall decide whether the grounds and other conditions are suitable for starting the game. After the game starts, the umpires are sole judges as to whether conditions are fit for play and as to whether or not conditions are suitable for starting the second game of a scheduled double-header (two games between the same teams during the same day).

4-1-2   If there are unusual conditions, such as spectators or obstacles too near the playing field, the home coach shall propose special ground rules. If sanctioned by the visiting team, these shall be in force. If the teams cannot agree, the umpires shall formulate ground rules. Ground rules do not supersede a rules book rule. All special rules shall be announced.

  1. The field should be clearly marked. Markings should include poles along the foul lines at least 210 feet past first and third and vertical foul line markings on any wall that limits the outfield.
  2. When a fair or foul fly comes down near a stand or fence, 7-4-1d applies. If there is a screen behind the catcher or other permanent obstruction in front of the stand, a batted ball that goes behind these becomes dead and cannot be caught. It is recommended that no such obstruction be less than 60 feet from the diamond.
  3. Wild pitches, overthrows and batted balls that go over, through or wedges in a fence are governed by Rule 8-3-3. If the field has unusual obstructions, ground rules should, as nearly as possible, be similar to this rule.
  4. For a special field condition, such as a drain pipe that makes a spot where it is impossible or very difficult for a fielder to retrieve the ball, the ball should become dead if it goes to that spot and each runner’s advance should be limited to two bases.
  5. In an unfenced field where cars are parked along the foul lines, umpires should consider these the same as bleachers and ball becomes dead if it bounces into the line of cars. They should anticipate such a situation and announce the ground rule in advance.

4-1-3   Before game time, the home team and then the visiting team shall deliver their respective batting orders in duplicate to the umpire-in-chief. The umpire then shall permit inspection by both head coaches and/or captains if available. Each team’s lineup card shall list a minimum of nine players to start the game (see 4-4-1f for game to continue with less than nine players). The substitution regulations, as in Rule 3, are then in effect.

  1. The umpire-in-chief shall receive verification from both head coaches that all participants are properly equipped and emphasize to the coaches and captains that all participants are expected to exhibit good sporting behavior throughout the game(s).

4-1-4   The visiting team shall be the first to take its turn at bat. On a neutral field or by agreement, either team may be designated as Home Team.

4-1-5   The game begins when the umpire calls “Play” after all infielders, pitcher, catcher and batter are in position to start the game.


4-2-1   A regulation interscholastic game consists of seven innings (turns at bat) unless extra inning(s) are necessary because of a tie score, or unless shortened because the home team needs none of its half of the seventh or only a fraction of it (4-2); or because of weather, or darkness (4-3). Each team must have nine players in its lineup throughout the game (see 4-4-1f Note 2). Otherwise, the game will be forfeited. A forfeited game is regulation, regardless of innings played (4-4-2).

4-2-2   The game ends when the team behind in score has completed its turn at bat in the seventh inning, or any inning thereafter if extra innings are necessary. If the home team scores a go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh inning, or in any extra inning, the game is terminated at that point. Any game that is tied at the end of 4-1/2 or at least five full innings when the game is called shall be a tie game, unless the state association has adopted a specific game ending procedure. Batting and fielding records are counted, but the game is not counted in computing percentages of games won and lost. By state association adoption, the game shall end when the visiting team is behind 10 or more runs after 4-1/2 innings, or after the fifth inning, if either team is 10 runs behind and both teams have had an equal number of times at bat.

  1. If an over-the-fence home run is hit, all runs score before the game is terminated.
  2. Two seven-inning games shall constitute a doubleheader.

4-2-3   If weather or darkness interferes with play so that the game is called (ended) by the umpire, it is a regulation game:

  1. if five full innings have been played, or if the home team has scored an equal or greater number of runs in four or four and a fraction turns at bat than the visiting team has scored in five turns at bat; or
  2. if play has gone beyond five full innings.

If the game is called when the teams have not had an equal number of completed turns at bat, the score shall be the same as it was at the end of the last completed inning; except that if the home team in its half of the incomplete inning, scores a run (or runs) which equals or exceeds the opponent’s score, the final score shall be as recorded when the game is called.

4-2-4   A state association may adopt game-ending procedures that determine how games are ended, including suspended games. However, if a state does not adopt game ending procedures, by mutual agreement of the opposing coaches and the umpire-in-chief, any remaining play may be shortened or the game terminated. If a state association has adopted game-ending procedures, only those game-ending procedures may be used, should the opposing coaches wish to terminate a game.

Section 3 - CALLED GAME

If a game is called before completion of the number of innings and conditions as specified in 4-2-3, the umpire shall declare the contest “no game,” unless play is terminated by 4-2-4. By state association adoption, a regulation called game where a winner cannot be determined (see 4-2-3) shall be counted as half-game won and half-game lost for each team.


4-4-1   A game shall be forfeited to the offended team by the umpire when a team:

  1. is late in appearing or in beginning play after the umpire calls "Play." State associations are authorized to specify the time frame and/or circumstance before a forfeit will be declared for a late arrival by one of the teams; or
  2. refuses to continue play after the game has started; or
  3. delays more than a reasonable amount of time in resuming play, or in obeying the umpire’s order to remove a player for violation of the rules; or
  4. persists in tactics designed to delay or shorten the game; or
  5. willfully and persistently violates any of the rules after being warned by the umpire; or
  6. is unable to provide at least nine players to start the game or cannot provide eight players to finish the game; or
    NOTE 1: An out will be called each time that spot in the batting order comes to bat. If the offensive player must be substituted for after reaching base, the most recent batter not on base is allowed to run for that player.
    NOTE 2: A team playing with fewer than nine players may return to nine players.
  7. on its home field, fails to comply with the umpire’s order to put the field in condition for play.

4-4-2   Score of a forfeited game is 7 to 0 except if the game is forfeited after the number of innings required for a regulation game and the offending team is behind. Then the score remains as recorded. If the offending team is leading, the score shall be 7 to 0.


It is optional on the part of a state association as to whether protests are permitted. When allowed, protests are permitted regarding rules one through nine only. When protests are submitted to organizations which do allow the filing, such protest must be submitted using a prescribed procedure (10-2-3i). All individual and team averages shall be included in the official records, except that no pitcher shall be credited with a victory or charged with a loss in such a game, if the game is not regulation.



2020 NFHS Baseball Rules

Table of Contents

NFHS Rule Changes 2020

Rule 1 - Players, Field & Equipment

Rule 2 - Playing Terms & Definitions

Rule 3 - Substituting, Coaching, etc.

Rule 4 - Starting & Ending the Game

Rule 5 - Dead Ball – Suspension of Play

Rule 6 - Pitching

Rule 7 - Batting

Rule 8 - Base Running

Rule 9 - Scoring – Record Keeping

Rule 10 - Umpiring

Appendices to the Rules

INDEX to the NFHS/FED Rules

[ Version 5.0, February 2020 ]
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