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San Clemente Little League

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Mar, 2023

The 10-Run Rule: What Parents Need to Know

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. 

Little League® rule 4.10(e), more commonly referred to as the “10-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 four (4) innings [Intermediate (50/70) Baseball Division/Junior/Senior League: five innings), three and one-half innings [Intermediate (50/70) Baseball Division/Junior/Senior League: four and one-half innings] if the home team is ahead, 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: (1) If the visiting team has a lead of ten (10) runs or more, the home team must bat in its half of the inning. 

While you’re watching games, keep in mind that there are several situations where the 10-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 a threshold to end a game in a fair and timely fashion.

  • The use of the term “mercy rule” is a misnomer. The 10-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 10-run rule.

  • Little League Baseball® games that are shortened by the 10-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 10-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 10-run rule in any of these ways:

    1. If the visiting team’s lead reaches 10 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.

    2. If the home team establishes a 10-run lead (in the bottom of the inning) of an official game.

    3. When the home team takes a lead of 10 runs, the game ends immediately after the run that establishes the double-digit 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 10-run rule is optional for local leagues during the regular season. It is mandatory during Little League International Tournament games.

  • Since the 10-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 10-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 10-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. 


San Clemente Little League

P.O. BOX 84 
San Clemente, California 92674

Email: [email protected]

Contact Us

San Clemente Little League

P.O. BOX 84 
San Clemente, California 92674

Email: [email protected]

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