Everything seems to be going very smoothly for Nishiura as they scored their second point. This happened after Sakaeguchi got a sacrificial bunt in the last episode to allow Mihashi to run back onto base easily without requiring to slide onto home. However, Tosei is not your run of the mill weak team. They are considered to be the hot favorites, and they must be trying to exploit the inexperience of Nishiura.
Will they be able to fight back the two point deficit? If anything, it will not be hard when they get their momentum since if they are simply going for base hits, it will spell trouble for the inexperienced team. Let’s go into Episode 19, and see if Mihashi and company will be able to keep their opponents at bay!
After the good bunt, Mihashi returned to drink some water as he seemed very thirsty. It seemed like he was sweating a lot, and wondered if he had to change his clothes. He decided that he could change it after the next inning, as the third batter was struck out. Mihashi immediately ran out to the pits, with Abe surprised at his enthusiasm since Mihashi could only train when he wore his paddings. Mihashi had some practice throws with Tajima. Tajima wondered why he was nervous when he was doing the practice with Mihashi, and Abe came for practice.
Mihashi smiled a lot, and this was not lost on everyone. Mihashi’s mother thought that he was happy, but his cousin was surprised as Mihashi had a very terrible experience in middle school where he was crying for a second and smiling the other. As Mihashi pitched, the first batter hit a curveball and it seemed that Tosei’s coach sent the third year batters who were more experienced in slow breaking balls. Junta was next and he did a sacrificial bunt to bring the first batter to second base. The next batter also hit a curveball that was out of the zone (a ball that would not be a strike), as there were runners on first and third base.
Momoe realized that all the batters seemed to be waiting for curveballs, with no high flying balls. Abe decided to go for Mihashi’s fast ball. The next batter is Maharaba, as Mihashi threw two fast balls. Tosei’s coach wavered for a second, before thinking that the constant strategy of using variety would not be changed, as he instructed his batters to wait for the curveball. As the third fast ball came, the batter had no choice but to hit a flyball. As Izumi received it outfield, the third base runner ran for home, and the ball to return home was not in time. Tosei scored one point now and two out. Abe realized that the batter did not use full power, but as it was a clean contact, it was hit well for the run back.
It was the next batter for Tosei, as he heard how the previous batter was screamed by the coach for not following instructions. The batter returned the fastball of Mihashi back to Mihashi as the inning was over. As Mihashi left the course, it seemed that he was nosebleeding, as Hanai told him to wipe the blood when he returned to the bench. When Mihashi started squeezing his nose, Hanai told Mihashi that he could breathe with his mouth.
Back at the benches, Abe realized in shock that Mihashi was down, but Momoe reassured him that Mihashi was simply suffering from bad weather. He would recover with some rest, especially since the ground was being tidied up after the fifth inning. At the spectator stand, the aunties were gossiping that Mihashi was too excited with all the girls supporting him. It seemed that the last time Mihashi had a nose bleed was the third year of middle school, before the sound of a ball in the distance alerted Tajima as he observed the training of Junta.
Abe was worried whether to reduce the number of balls thrown to reduce the physical strain on Mihashi because the team would lose without him. However, Mihashi eventually got up and said that he was fine, and no changes to the tactics were required to be made as long as Abe gave him instructions. Junta’s practice showed that the forkball’s control was hard with the rain, but the sinker was still fine. With the next inning, Tajima hit for a base hit but Hanai, Oki and Mizutani were struck out. No. 7 (2nd hitter) of Tosei was next as Abe gave instructions to hit a foul ball, then a shuuto at the same position which was good. Eventually, no.7 was struck out.
No.4 (3rd hitter) of Tosei was next, as he hit a curveball out of the strike zone, but still managed to run safely. No.14 (4th hitter), the shortstop of Tosei was next, which started with a bunt position. It was the same position he did in the previous game, and Abe ordered for a shuuto close to him. However, it was a fake as he swung his bat for a outfield hit and there were two runners at second and third. Kawai, the catcher (5th batter), was next as Abe asked for a timeout. Everyone in the team then met in the middle, discussing the tactics. They wondered about whether they would play a squeeze, while Momoe’s guess was that it would be a squeeze.
Mihashi then talked about the third base runner, as everyone stared at him. As Mihashi strew a fastball, it was a run and hit as Tajima threw it to the home base. However, it was not in time as Tosei scored another run but Abe was able to throw out Kawai. Tosei’s coach was glad that they finally got back on level terms, even though that would relieve the pressure from Nishiura. Momoe said that they did whatever that they could, with Abe angry that he was unable to prevent the score. However, when Tajima smiled at Mihashi for two out, Mihashi screamed out “batter showdown!” and everyone was motivated once again. The mood was improved by Mihashi’s morale boosting shout, as everyone concentrated for the inning.
I am not at all surprised how Tosei returned back to the game so smoothly. They are a top side with good batters all around, and hence it is perhaps quite expected that they would return level with some ease. It’s also cool how they made it look just so simple when it’s down to the tactics of Tosei’s coach. It’s smart that they are aiming for base hits with a curveball as curveballs if managed well, I presume will be easy to hit good grounder shots.
That is why Abe noticed that all of them have been watching and waiting for curveballs. In a way, I feel that Mihashi’s ability as a very good pitcher is never in doubt, as it is simply problematic that he requires quite a bit more speed even with the supreme control he has. I like how this episode brings the perspective of a star team that has way more experience and talent than Nishiura’s squad. Nevertheless, it is clear that Nishiura is not overawed and they still have a good fighting chance to remind in the game if they can find some way out with Tajima’s talent.
I actually enjoy the antics of Mihashi for this week, particularly with his amusing reaction after the nosebleed, as well as the “batter showdown” at the end of the episode. It is clear that Mihashi is growing in confidence, and I am very happy for this growing comfort in his ability. I am glad that Abe has kept Mihashi’s fragile soul to be in a state where he can support Abe as well. The last part clearly shows how his strong mental strength to be the pitcher of his team is leading his team on mentally and emotionally.
Is it just me but anyone feel that Junta is not as amazing as he was touted to be before the game? I mean, he seems like rather fallible when he looks like someone who can do a total clean up of the Nishiura batters. Maybe, it is the initial nerves but it is still surprising how he can be shocked by various plays in this game. I do not know, but he is not really impressing me that much other than the fact that he is a fastball specialist. I guess Mihashi is really an amazing pitcher.
Next week’s title is “Caught up”. Who is being caught up? I hope now that Nishiura pulls off the most unexpected victory over the team, but realistically, it seems that the curtains are down for them this season.