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In baseball and softball, a full count is the common name for a count where the batter has three balls and two strikes. The term may derive from older scoreboards, which had three spaces for balls and two for strikes, since this is the maximum number of each that can be achieved before some type of play must occur. Many scoreboards still use light bulbs for this purpose, and thus a 3-2 count means all the bulbs are fully lit up.

Another strike against the batter will result in a strikeout, while another ball will result in a walk. However, a batter may maintain the two strikes indefinitely by hitting foul balls, so a full count does not always mean that only five pitches have been thrown.

A pitch which is thrown with a full count is often referred to as a payoff pitch, since it is likely to be a good pitch for the batter to swing at. With three balls already, the pitcher cannot afford to miss the strike zone, which would result in ball four and a walk for the batter.

Baserunners often will take off with a full count even if they aren't very fast, especially with two outs. The runner or runners will always be running with the pitch if there are two outs and the situation involves a runner on first, first and second, or the bases loaded, since they can't be caught stealing or doubled off because the batter will strike out to end the inning, walk to force the runners or put the ball in play.


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