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 27 – “The Note”
The game against Hakuryu, a quarterfinalist in the Invitational, is entering the final stretch. What has Sawamura felt and learned facing a nationally ranked powerhouse school? What did Furuya feel and learn watching Sawamura pitch the game on his own? Both pitchers have mixed emotions. Meanwhile, Mima, who also wants to play professionally, has taken an interest in Miyuki.
Episode 28 – “I’m Not Stopping”
After a series of successful practice games, the Seido Nine are intensely focused on preparing for the summer tournament. Sawamura, encouraged by Kataoka’s words, begins rising early in the morning to train. Meanwhile, after seeing Sawamura’s improvement, Furuya tries to help out with batting practice. Their rivalry seems to be having a positive influence on both of them, until…
Episode 29 – “After Spring Comes”
The Seido baseball team is hard at work preparing for the summer tournament. Meanwhile, the team managers are reviewing notebooks and clippings of newspaper and magazine articles about the team since their appearance at the Invitational. They remember the passionate emotions of Sawamura and Furuya during the games. Seeking consecutive spring and summer appearances at Koshien Stadium, they are striving to improve.
Episode 30 – “Bloom of Youth”
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
There were actually no games played for a significant amount of time during this stretch of episodes, so I don’t even know where to begin. I only have three and a half pages of notes instead of, like, five pages or more.
Furuya is actually injured (out for two weeks resting a back / shoulder area, it was not clear, because of a bad pitching form), so any practice games Seido is playing in this stretch are started mostly by Sawamura. There are a few also started by Kawakami and, near the end of episode 30, Tojo comes in. The games that were played were most if not all montages, so it’s kind of useless to do my usual bullet point reviews of any of them.
The Furuya injury sets up a huge opportunity for Sawamura to take the ace number from him. He’s been pitching well, and he stood out a lot in the Hakuryu game. This also sets up what Sawamura needs to improve on, because he’s having so much more exposure compared to earlier, and contrasts Sawamura’s style with Furuya’s much more than before. They have a chat about it in the lunch room, where the fielders point out that, once there’s a man on base, Furuya doesn’t look comfortable on the mound anymore. He loses confidence not as much in himself as he does the fielders, and probably pitches much more cautiously as a result. Because he’s not fully on, the batters can take advantage of that, and one baserunner turns into three turns into several runs.
As an aside, this is the kind of mental toughness that is required of pitchers. They need to know that one pitch, one hit, one play is just that: one thing in a dozen things that happen in any given game. The one pitch could be the one and only mistake the pitcher makes out of 100+ pitches he throws that day. The one pitch could be a fielder just out of place, resulting in a hit instead of an out. The one pitch could simply be a very good pitch punished by an even better batter. Pitchers have to understand that one pitch is just one pitch, and move on from that. But Furuya doesn’t seem capable of that after failing at Koushien, the biggest stage for Japanese high school baseball. He’s thinking too much on the mound about what has happened or what could happen, and he’s losing focus on what’s happening in front of him. Instead of throwing at ~170 km/h, he’s throwing at, say, 160 km/h. Or he’s throwing at 170, but it’s going far out of the zone. The mistake pitches start adding up, and even a bad team can punish them.
Sawamura, on the other hand, has complete faith in his fielders. This is due mostly to two things: 1. Sawamura is more of a contact pitcher than the overpowering strikeout machine that Furuya is, and 2. Sawamura just knows the fielders better. It’s evident throughout the entire series that Sawamura is an energetic and loud character, and Furuya is a sweaty piece of cardboard that can chuck a baseball mostly accurately at ~170 km/h. He knows the fielders, but he doesn’t have as good of a relationship with them. His relationship—probably the only one he finds relevant—is between him and Miyuki. He thinks the only interaction a pitcher should have is with the catcher and the batter. The other seven guys on the field are there in case the battery messes up, or the batter is just that good. Sawamura understands that if he makes a mistake, or when the pitches he throws rightly jam the batter, it’s on his fielders to finish the job.
There was also some focus on Kuramochi in these episodes, as he transitions from a switch hitter to just a left-handed hitter. This is a long-standing suggestion from Ochiai that he ignored at the time because “switch hitting is cool.” But to be fair, Ochiai was suggesting it in his usual asshole-y way, so who’s going to take that seriously. Unless you’re Furuya, I guess. Ochiai did have good reasoning behind his suggestion, because lefties are closer to the bag and, with Kuramochi’s speed, those few feet between where the right-handed batter and the left-handed batter stand does make a difference on an infield hit, especially ones hard hit. Kuramochi finally acquiesced to the suggestion, and is trying to just hit from the left side.
This is not something that’s just done without a lot of thought, but high school or college is the time to do it. A switch hitting batter is very used to, in this case, left-handed pitches coming from a right-handed batting point of view. I imagine that if Kuramochi is, say, a .250–.270 hitter by average from the right side against lefties, he’s going to be under Mendoza for a while while his eyes adjust to the new place the ball is coming from. There’s a reason why managers want platoon advantages, because it’s easier to see some breaking balls if you’re batting opposite from the pitcher.
There’s also a very fun flashback to Kuramochi in middle school when he bleached his hair and was much more of an anime delinquent than he is now. But that kind of energy is what got him recruited to Seido by Takashima. Seido wanted a speedy leadoff man that could set the tone for the inning and the game, and they got one in Kuramochi. Of course, there’s no stats I can confirm this off of (what’s even the point of baseball without the statistics), but anecdotally the team believes that, when Kuramochi gets on base to start the game, they will score and they have a much better chance at winning by doing so. Which is about as useful as saying “when Alcides Escobar—he who hit ..257/.293/.320 with a 67 OPS+—gets on base, we win games.” I assume the stats are kinder to Kuramochi, but I don’t know.
Also episode 29 was just a recap episode. I watched maybe three minutes to determine if there was any new material. To my viewing, there was not.
These episodes were a great reprieve from the usual onslaught of baseball games where everything is in stills and you can barely get a sense for what’s happening if it weren’t for the characters talking over the game. Actual character growth, or at least realization, happened and I couldn’t be happier for Sawamura and Kuramochi for realizing it.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Equipment: LG 47LB5800 47” 1080p LED TV, LG NB3530A Sound Bar