Ep 17: Thirdbase Runner
Tajima and Suyama pat Mihashi’s back for a job well done as he struck out Tosei’s last three batters. However, Abe and Momoe both agree that the last three batters were told to observe Mihashi and his pitches. Meanwhile, on the field, Hanai comes up empty on his second time at bat. Oki is next. He hits the first foul and ends up missing the next three. With two outs, Mizutani comes to the plate. Momoe instructs him according to the data they have on Kazuki. The count reaches 2 strikes and 1 ball, and then Mizutani strikes out on Junta’s forkball, swiftly ending Nishiura’s turn at offense.
The Musashino First team arrives at their assigned stadium. It starts to rain lightly. Akimaru asks Haruna whether it would have an effect on pitching. Haruno says no. Akimaru continues to worry about the rain, annoying Haruna. Akimaru thinks Haruna might be nervous, then realizes it's something else. Kaguyama thinks how it's his last tournament when Haruna comes up from behind to surprise him. Haruna grabs his shoulders and notes how he's developed his muscles and now is time to show off the results of his training.
Meanwhile, the Nishiurs cheer squad guys hear the girls talking about how cool Mihashi is. Umehara admits that he joined the cheer squad to meet girls. The cheer squad guys talk about how great it would be if hey had cheer girls!
The Tosei players gather around their coach. The coach scolds his team for their poor performance. He then asks the players if they have anything worthy to tell. Takajima noticed that for a string of 10 pitches, the catcher did not pursue Mihashi’s pitches. Given that, he concludes that Mihashi has excellent ball control. Kazuki also voices that Nishiura’s coach might have thoroughly studied him and thereby easily predict his signals. Finally, Junta tops it off saying that Nishiura already knows his pickoff motion. The coach concludes that Mihashi is a pitcher with quite a number of pitches, excellent ball control, but his delivery speed is low. The coach tells them all to hit grounders.
Batting for Tosei is Mashiba. Mashiba lays down a safety bunt and dashes his way to first. Momoe and Abe realize that Mashiba’s value as a first hitter lies in his running speed. Nishiura tries to keep Mashiba in check with a pickoff attempt. Yet, as soon as Mihashi commits to pitch, Mashiba makes a run and successfully steals second despite a pitchout. Abe yells out orders, while Matsunaga, the batter, thinks it’s a cheeky way to give out instructions.
Mihashi shoots a glance at Mashiba, now at second base, before throwing the pitch. the batter bunts it high near third. Tajima quickly retrieves it and throws to first for the first out. Mashiba, on the other hand, safely advances to third. Abe gives the infielders a block sign. From the mound, Mihashi gives Mashiba, the thirdbase runner, a blank stare. After the count goes two balls and no strikes, Shimazaki gets an infield hit.
One out and with runners on first and third, it is Aoki’s turn to face Mihashi. Mihashi, again, gives the third base runner a look. As Mihashi pitches, Shimazaki steals second. Mihashi glances at the third base runner once more, making Mashiba uncomfortable.
Aoki hits a squeeze bunt, but it stops dead in between home base and the mound. Abe needs to make a split-second decision. He knows that Tajima, third baseman, will not be able to retrieve the ball in time. He wonders if he should retrieve the ball himself. However, doing that would allow an opening for Shimazaki to score another run. While Tajima races for the ball alongside Mashiba, he orders Mihashi, who is also making a start for the ball, to make the throw to Abe with his right-hand. As soon as Mihashi cups the ball, he flings it to Abe, who has already positioned himself at the home plate. Silence fills the stadium as everyone awaits the umpire’s decision. The umpire declares that the runner is out! The crowd and Nishiura bench goes wild with excitement! Applause and cheers fill up the stadium in appreciation to Mihashi’s excellent play.
Blocking the plate: When Mashiba was at third base, Abe gave out a “block” sign to the fielders. Catchers block the home plate to prevent a runner from scoring. During this situation, a runner may choose to either slide home or have a head-on collision with the catcher in order to knock the ball from the catcher's glove. There's also a chance of stealing home, which is very rare. Abe probably gave this signal so the infielders will know he will not be retrieving any infield balls. He will be stationed at home and they are to throw to him to prevent the runner from scoring.