Eijun Sawamura, potential ace
What They Say:
Eijun Sawamura finally makes his first appearance at the spring invitational! He wants to restore Seido’s reputation as a first-rate team and make them national champions! Seido High School Baseball Club’s new run is about to begin!
Episode 11 – “Where You Look”
It’s the quarterfinals of the spring tournament and Seido is playing Kasuga First High. In the bottom of the third inning, Haruichi Kominato gets a timely hit to give Seido the lead and bring the cleanup Miyuki up to bat. Can Miyuki take the pressure of starting pitcher Sawamura? The fifth inning sees a big chance for Kasuga First. Can Sawamura see the game through? Meanwhile, the effect of Koshien Stadium on Furuya has become apparent, making him more focused on being the ace. What is it he sees, looking forward?
Episode 12 – “Selfish”
Episode 13 – “Batting First”
Episode 14 – “Presence”
Episode 15 – “My Role”
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Episode 11 begins where episode 10 left off, literally because the beginning of Ace of the Diamond episodes start with a substantial amount of recap. Anyway, your bullet point recap of Seido v. Kasuga starting in the bottom of the 3rd:
- The previous episode left us with Tojo is on second, Kominato is on first, and Miyuki is coming up to bat.
- Miyuki is historically much better with runners in scoring position (RISP) than not, so the Kasuga pitcher throws around Miyuki, who works the count 3-0. At that point, they just decide to intentionally walk Miyuki with a pitch far enough outside the strike zone that he’s not going to swing. No no-throw intentional walks in Japanese high school baseball, take that Manfred.
- The remaining batters in the inning come through very fast, and it’s not really clear who crosses the plate, but by logic: Tojo, Kominato, and Miyuki came around on Shirasu’s RBI hit after the intentional walk. Then Maezono hit a sac fly to bring Shirasu home. Unless I missed something.
- Seido 4 – Kasuga 0
- In the bottom of the 4th, Seido scores two more runs off Kasuga through unknown means.
- Sawamura started this game, but he hasn’t had much in this episode despite being the starter and the main character… Anyway, he hits a batter to load the bases with two outs, but escapes the jam. His final line: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 7 K
- Furuya comes in to start the 6th, but his control is off, even from his normal wildness. His conditioning isn’t nearly up to where it needs to be for how hard he throws to keep through a whole game on anything but youth and adrenaline, but I imagine he’s just also too young (aka still growing, and his frame will get larger to accommodate his ridiculous throwing) to be able to sustain anything.
- Skipping to the bottom of the 7th, Masashi Yuki destroys a baseball for a 2 run home run, thus walking off the game on the mercy rule. Seido wins, 8-0.
The next match up is between Ichidai and Nioga, and the winner of that bout will go on to face Seido. Not much is shown of this game, but Ichidai takes control of it with a homer in the bottom of the 4th and also have Amahisa Kosei on the mound, who can rival Furuya for speed and Sawamura for control. The best of both worlds for Ichidai.
The episode not only showcases what Sawamura has learned from standing on the bullpen mound at the Koushien, helpless, but also that he’s an incredible study of film. After dinner, he’s not raring to go pitch as he usually is. He wants to watch himself in the game. He wants to find out what he did to get replaced by Furuya for the last half, and more specifically what led to the hit by pitch. He’s the main character, so of course we’re more likely to see these moments happen at all, but it’s also an indicator that he wants to be independently proactive in his improvements. Furuya, meanwhile, thinks he can get by on his the speed of his fastball and just passively takes in any criticism of coaching from people. Furuya will learn that his fastball can only take him so far eventually, and that’s a wall he’ll have to climb when he gets there. But Sawamura is already at a wall in Furuya, and he’s showing that he can climb over it with ease if given the chance.
Furuya has goals of his own, sure. But how is he going to achieve those goals? It isn’t really explained or addressed in the show, and it’s because Furuya doesn’t really know how he’s going to. Rather, he thinks he already can with what he has. But after a CG, 4 H loss against Komadai, he wants to aim even higher. In truth, a CG, 4 H game should have been enough to win the game, it’s just that Hongo was better that day.
There is a bit of content in these episodes developing the first years that arrived as well, and it’s welcome. The characters haven’t gotten much beyond their baseball profile and how they interact with some of the main cast we already know, but they haven’t had many moments of their own. Asada, Sawamura and Kuramochi’s poor roommate, accidentally offers to play catch with the always enthusiastic Sawamura, a decision he ends up treasuring. Between practices, eating his fill, and Sawamura’s uh disturbances, he hasn’t been able to get a good night’s sleep since he arrived at Seido. But taking all that off his mind after dinner and playing a little catch with Sawamura was exactly what he needed. They talk baseball, and Asada is allowed to lean into why he loves and plays baseball. He even taught Sawamura a thing or two about a curveball that Asada throws, which I’m sure Sawamura is all too eager to try and add to his arsenal.
Okumura, who’s been butting heads with Sawamura lately, reaches out to Sawamura with a peace offering after a talking to from Captain Miyuki. Sawamura is rather temperamental, and can be easily influenced by the goings on around him. He doesn’t want a petty fight between the two appear as deficiencies on the mound, so Miyuki wants them to at least be friendly with each other. Okumura, a catcher by trade, offers to help Sawamura warm up for pitching with Miyuki, and he sees just how good a pitcher Sawamura is with his own glove. Sawamura and Miyuki have come up with some signs for what each pitch means, and it seems Sawamura has at least a four to five pitch offering. The ones they revealed:
- 2 – Two-seam fastball
- 4 – Four-seam fastball outside to a RHB
- 7 – What Miyuki dubbed the “cut ball kai,” or improved cutter
Those three go along with his lesser version of his cutter, which is probably still usable situationally, and more importantly his changeup. And I believe he had a full palm ball that isn’t really escapes categorization. Sawamura is the better pitcher overall, it’s just that speed plays so well the lower and lower in levels you go, and Furuya has overpowering speed.
From the pitch practice, it jumps straight to Seido’s match against Ichidao Third. Your bullet-point recap:
- Miyuki wins the toss, and opts to bat first. They want to get to Amahisa early, because it takes him a while to settle into a game rhythm.
- Sure enough, Kuramochi leads the game off with a double.
- Tojo gets the sign to play small ball and bunts Kuramochi over to third.
- At least five statisticians rolled their eyes when Kataoka called for the bunt. Tojo has a 3/5 rating on batting according to the Ace of the Diamond guidebook, and 4/5 on contact. By comparison, Miyuki is 4/5 on both and Yuki is 5/5 on both. With that information, I’d probably surmise that Tojo is around a .270-ish average hitter? I have no idea how good his bunting is, but he’s probably practiced it far less than his straight up hitting. With the speedy Kuramochi already on second, a single will bring him home. Worst case is that Kuramochi TOOTBLANs and they end up with a double play, but the more likely worst case is that Tojo hits into an out, and Kuramochi stays at second, still in scoring position. But of course the best case is a homer, and more likely a single that brings Kuramochi home and puts Tojo on first or second. A better call might be for Kuramochi to try to steal third and have Tojo hit regularly, but alas. It’s early in the game and it’s Japanese high school baseball, so it’s excusable, but still questionable. The results Kataoka and Seido could get out of Tojo hitting are far better than the bunt attempt.
- Kominato comes up, and watches five straight pitches without swinging. He walks.
- The outfield plays deep for the relative power hitter, Miyuki, he of RISP hitting. And hit he does, with a single, bringing Kuramochi home. It could have also brought Tojo home if he had been allowed to hit and hit a single.
- Shirasu gets another hit, bringing Kominato home. Seido 2 – Ichidai 0
- Amahisa ends the damage there, and gets the remaining outs, one by K on Yuki.
- Furuya is equally unsteady to start the bottom of the frame, eventually loading the bases with two outs.
- He induces a flyout to center, escaping any potential damage, and keeping the shutout alive.
- It’s your typical Ace of the Diamond montage, with four whole innings skipped with no more runs given up.
- In the top of the 5th, Seido strikes out then pops out to end the inning.
- In the bottom of the frame, Furuya is laboring to 80+ pitches already, and then promptly walks a batter. Afterward, he gives up a double. The score is 2-1 Seido.
With the way these episodes are going, I hope we get into Sawamura starting to truly challenge Furuya for the starter and ace role. Ochiai knows what I do, in that Furuya is just going to blow away the competition with his arm, but it isn’t really conductive to his growth nor Sawamura’s. Furuya could very easily throw out his arm with overuse, as so many other Japanese high school pitchers have. Ochiai, I’m sure, knows this too, but his goal is a cutthroat winning. Sawamura and Furuya probably give them approximately equal chances of winning on whole, but Furuya is going to be the more consistent one, despite his command and control issues. I’d like to see Sawamura’s long-term growth more than Furuya’s, but at least Furuya has a viable role in the majors if he doesn’t pan out as a starter. Sawamura may be resigned to either crafty lefty starter or LOOGY, but his ceiling is there.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Equipment: Xbox One, LG 47LB5800 47” 1080p LED TV, LG NB3530A Sound Bar