Ep 10: Step By Step
Mihashi wants to make a good battery with Abe, knowing that he can pitch if it is with him. Momoe interrupts his thoughts and asks what they need in order to achieve success. Abe and Momoe both want another pitcher, breaking Mihashi’s heart. He starts sobbing. Abe angrily explains they have doubleheaders coming up in the pratice games. Mihashi says he can pitch both games like in middle school. Momoe and Abe quickly shoot down Mihashi’s idea of pitching for the whole two games. There is no way that Mihashi can manage to throw 300-400 pitches. The schedule for the upcoming summer tournament will be tight and unforgiving especially in the heat. Momoe stresses that this tournament will not be like middle school and it will be a big mistake to think that they will get by with just one pitcher.
Tajima swiftly springs into action and remedies Mihashi’s insecurities using a marker. He draws number “1,” the ace’s number, on Mihashi’s jersey. Mihashi gushes as he lovingly stares on his newly vandalized baseball uniform.
Momoe appoints Hanai and Oki as relief pitchers. Though Oki did not write it in his profile, he has more experience as a pitcher compared to Hanai. Momoe then moves on to choosing another catcher.
Since Mihashi looked so upset, Tajima tries to write #2 on Abe’s uniform but he doesn’t want it. Abe gets Tajima in a headlock. Sakaeguchi thinks Mihashi’s parents might think he’s being bullied if they see the 1 on his uniform.
With everyone else, except Abe, lacking experience as a catcher, Momoe offers Tajima the position. Tajima seems to fit the profile of a catcher to a tee, with his strong throwing arm, exceptional baseball sense, and his good rapport with Mihashi. Momoe describes the excitement and thrill that comes with being a catcher, blinding Tajima into agreeing. The rest of the team will rotate to learn more than 2 positions.
Momoe helps Tajima into his catcher’s gear, who instantly takes a liking to it and comments on how easily he is able to move. Momoe hands him his mitt and terrorizes him to make sure he takes good care of it. Meanwhile, Abe notices Mihashi’s weak pitching and goes over to him to discuss it. Abe finds out that Mihashi is bothered that there are other pitchers. He then explains that it is not because Mihashi is not reliable, it is just that during practice games they will need two pitchers. Oki and Hanai will also come in handy when fatigue starts to set in on Mihashi.
Mihashi’s real worry, though, is that he would not be a good pitcher without Abe. A smile crawls up to Abe’s face, realizing that this is the first time Mihashi spoke his mind. Abe boldly states that for the next three years, he will not get sick or injured. If Mihashi is on the mound, he will definitely be the catcher. However, Mihashi is not allowed to get sick either.
After practice, Momoe lets the boys decide on who should be the team captain. They unanimously vote for Hanai after thoughts of someone who can admonish the players, talk openly with Momoe, hardworking, etc. Cheers echo as Hanai reluctantly take on this responsibility. Hanai chooses Abe and Sakaeguchi as assistant captains. First order of business as new captain, Hanai leads off the team shouting, “Let’s do our best for the summer tournament! Nishiura!”
After watching Nishiuro catch his first fly ball, Mihashi bumps into Shinooka. Knowing that today is Mihashi’s birthday, she greets him right away. With practice over, everyone gathers around Momoe. She expresses her concern on the boys’ studies with the exams fast approaching. Tajima protests on her sudden interest in their grades. She tries to convey the importance of studying and dramatizes the dangers of getting red marks on one’s report card. Finally, she asks who are in danger of failing, to which both Mihashi and Tajima proudly admit in unison. She clutches their heads, telling them that they will not be allowed to compete with poor grades.
The boys discuss the subjects they need help on, when Mihashi invites them over to his house to study. Mihashi assures that he can accommodate all 10 people, making the others realize that he must be living in a big house and is rich. Mihashi quickly informs his mother of his plans.
After reaching Mihashi’s home, Hanai leads the others in studying when they hear a high-pitched voice. Mihashi’s mom just arrived. He makes a quick exit to meet her. Tajima overhears that it is Mihashi’s birthday while his mother was showing him his cake. Soon after, the rest of the team finds out. Mihashi’s mom tries hard to contain her snickering over Mihashi, who unknowingly tried to produce his own surprise party. Tajima breaks the tension and asks everyone to join him in celebrating Mihashi’s birthday. Sakaeguchi offers to help in the preparation while Hanai courteously asks Mihashi’s mom to join them.
They all wish Mihashi a Happy Birthday and he blows out the candles on the cake. Then they do it for Suyama. Tajima suggests Hanai next, but he doesn't want it.
Shortly after dinner, Abe requests to see Mihashi’s practice area. Mihashi warns Abe that he might be disappointed, though Abe thinks otherwise. The others take a good look at Mihashi’s pitching target. Before, Mihashi reveals, he used a board, but after switching from softball to hardball, it was destroyed.
Abe tells Mihashi to pitch as he instructs it. He calls Tajima to observe. Mihashi obliges and manages to throw as dictated, demonstrating his nine-section strike zone. Abe asks if Tajima could do what Mihashi did. Tajima could not, as it is the product hard work. He turns around and shouts, “Mihashi! Let’s go to Koshien!” After gathering enough courage, Mihashi tells them that he wants to go.
Sakaeguchi gleefully acknowledges that this is the first time that Mihashi did not back down and not say that it was impossible. Everyone recalls the time when Momoe whacked Mihashi with a bat for being so negative. Abe also reflects that at the time, he thought that it was impossible for Mihashi to change. Just as long as the pitcher followed his lead, played as instructed, his personality need not matter. However, his outlook has changed since then.
As the others circle around Mihashi, Abe walks over to the target and looks back:
“That guy’s hard work, I want to put it all to good use.”