Ep 14: Challenge!
Cloudy skies greet the first round game between Tosei and Nishiura. After announcing the batting order, the Nishiura team breaks from their hurdle. Abe touches Mihashi’s palm and finds that it is warm, signifying that Mihashi is not nervous.
As people start to crowd the stadium, Hamada tries to round up all the Nishiura supporters. From the crowd, Hamada spots Mihashi’s mother. He immediately runs up to greet her.
In the Tosei dugout, Kazuki observes the opposing team, taking note of the female coach and the all-freshman team. Then, Shingo comes over, saying how it'll be difficult not to take it easy on the first years. The other Tosei members turn their gazes his way, while Kazuki asks him to keep his voice down.
After warming up, Mihashi is surprised to see all the people who came to watch the game. He also takes notice of the people Hamada gathered to cheer for them. Fear starts to take over as he recalls what it was like in middle school. Initially, many people would flock to the stands to cheer. As the game progressed, cheers slowly turned into jeers and gradually the stands became empty. Eventually, people stopped going to their games completely and Mihashi blames himself for it.
Hamada’s voice awakens Mihashi from his trance. Mihashi quickly runs towards the stands to talk with his mom and Hamada. Mihashi’s mom remarks that the number on her son’s back seems to be crooked. Hamada offers to sew on the number next time, but Mihashi’s mom gently declines the help. She would like to do it on her own, to show how proud she is. She admits that she could not believe it at first and even thought that Mihashi was being bullied, after seeing the #1 was written on his jersey with a marker. Now, however, she knows that it is not a mistake and is very proud of Mihashi. Mihashi blushes, happy to hear his mother say those words and for believing in him as the team’s ace.
Momoe admires the Tosei ace as he takes his practice throws. She feels honored that Tosei is taking them seriously and using their regular players, but thinks they look rather stiff..
Finally, the game is underway. Izumi is first at bat and takes a bunting position against Tosei’s pitcher, Takase Junta. Izumi can hit 130kph balls from the pitching machine. However, he knows that it is not the same when facing an actual pitcher with the same speeds. Junta throws a ball for the first pitch. Kazuki is slightly worried over not having any data on the batters. After the second pitch, the count is two balls, no strikes (note: the Japanese would used 0-2 while the US would designate this as 2-0). Knowing that Tosei would want a strike, they anticipate that Junta would pitch a slider. Izumi connects and gets on base.
Up next is Sakaeguchi. He too assumes the bunting position, which elicits a curious look from Kazuki. Sakaeguchi bunts on a straight and is thrown out, while Izumi safely advances to second.
Suyama takes up bat and is also instructed to bunt. Suyama wants to make good on his turn at bat and move Izumi to third base. Hoping that with Tajima up next, they will be able to score. Izumi takes a lead from secondbase and without warning, Junta attempts a pickoff. The Tosei shortstop wonders if he missed a sign, but he didn't. Suyama gets the feeling that the pitcher may be anxious. Meanwhile, Kazuki swears under his breath because some of his nervousness is rubbing off on Junta. Junta throws the pitch. Suyama sacrifices successfully with a bunt. Izumi is now on third with two outs.
Out on the stands, the mothers talk about Tajima’s baseball prowess. Ren's mom says Tajima was at the top of the school ranking for the physical fitness test. Tajima's mom modestly says Tajima's spoiled since he's the youngest. With two outs and a man on third, Tajima enters the batter's box. Momoe has set the table for Tajima. She signals Izumi to run home as soon as the ball is hit.
Kazuki figures that Tajima cannot possibly send the ball flying due to his small build. However, given that the's the cleanup hitter, Tajima must be an exceptional batter.
Junta throws a forkball for the first strike. Hanai recalls how Kazuki’s signs follow a pattern: the use of forkballs for right-hand hitters and sinkers for lefties. Tajima takes a swing at the next pitch, a sinker, but misses. The Nishiura team is stunned after Tajima strikes out, failing again in hitting the second sinker. With Tajima having trouble batting against the sinker, he leaves it to Hanai. Tajima tells Hanai the sinker is hard for lefhanders, but the forkball is hittable for righthanders.
Nishiura takes the defensive. Abe is relieved, as it seems that Mihashi is not nervous at all. Getting ready to pitch, Mihashi’s determination rises as he vows to do his best as Nishiura’s legitimate #1, the ace.
Mihashi's mom was barely in her 20s when Hamada knew her. Ren was in second grade when they moved, about 7 years old. His mother would be at most 23 at most to qualify as barely, which means she got pregnant at 16! Before she graduated from Nishiura high school. No wonder they eloped.
Tajima bats left but throws right, which is unusual but not uncommon.
Manga Cuts: No significant differences.