Ep 4: Play
The Mihoshi players eye Mihashi intently as he takes the mound for the first time. For the first pitch, Abe calls for a full power fastball, knowing Mihashi won't have control, to serve as a little wake up call. Abe wants the Mihoshi player to know that this is not the same Mihashi from middle school. Mikagawa swings the bat as he tries to evade Mihashi’s pitch. The Mihoshi bench starts to jeer, telling him that it would not hurt even if the pitch would hit him, not knowing that the pitch made a good sound with the mitt just now. Mikagawa knows that it would definitely hurt if he would be hit.
When Mihashi’s confidence is about to waver, Abe and the others cheer him on. Mihashi refocuses, realizing that Abe has already taken to account his limitations, thus he will just have to trust Abe’s judgment. A slight change in the batter’s stance catches Abe’s attention and he calls the pitch accordingly. Mikagawa makes his way back to the dugout after retiring at the second pitch. He shares that Mihashi is not pitching like he used to and he even has some speed to his pitch now.
Being told by Kanou, that he would have trouble hitting Mihashi’s pitches, bothers Oda. He finds it hard to believe that it would be hard to hit Mihashi’s pitches, because it is only due to the catcher’s skill that the pitches are giving out a loud sound and Mihashi’s maximum speed is only a mere 110 kph, moreover, Mihashi’s form is not good. He comforts himself with the thought that he might have a problem hitting the pitch because it is too slow.
On the way to the dugout, Mihashi praises Abe, who is the reason why he has been performing well thus far. Shortly after, Nishiura goes on the offensive. Up first is Tajima, whom Hatake eyes with curiosity because he is rather small for a clean-up hitter. Abe is surprised that Tajima refused to hit the first three pitches making the count 2-1. Abe anticipates that the forkball will be coming next and apparently, so does Tajima, who hits a double. “YES!” The Nishiura bench is elated and starts to cheer. Momoe gushes, happy that the guys are finally starting to look like a team.
With no outs and a runner at second base, Hanai prepares himself to bunt as soon as Momoe instructs it. However, Momoe tells him to hit as he pleases. Momoe wants to know how Hanai will do on his own, so she will know how to utilize him later on. The count comes to 2-1 again and Hanai has yet to hit the ball, which causes Momoe to think that maybe Hanai is just all talk. Hanai takes a swing at Kanou’s forkball, but misses.
A dejected Hanai takes off his batting gear. He thought he could hit the forkball after seeing Tajima do it earlier. Momoe instructs him to think of what he will do the next time he is at bat, as he missed out this time around. Momoe then calls the attention of the other players. She tells them that though Tajima is, without a doubt, an outstanding baseball player and clean-up hitter, he still has things he cannot do. Because of Tajima’s small build, he cannot hit homeruns. This means he needs everyone’s strength to score. After hearing this, Hanai realizes that he should not have tried to hit the forkball just to compete with Tajima. There were surer ways to advance the runner and he shouldn't have waited for the forkball. He swears that he will do better next time.
Abe approaches the mound and tells Mihashi that since the bases are empty, he would like to collect some data on Oda, the tall guy with the Kansai accent. He warns that Oda might hit the ball, but not to worry, they will just have to deal with it when it comes. With Abe on his side, Mihashi knows that all he needs to do is to concentrate on his game.
Oda takes up the bat. With no attempt to swing after two pitches, it seems to Abe that Oda was told to only observe Mihashi’s pitching. Having that in mind, Abe calls for a curve ball and the count goes to 1-2. Abe calls for another curve ball, though, this time Oda swings, but it ends up foul.
Startled that Oda hit the pitch, Mihashi recalls how he had faced far fiercer batters by himself. It is different now. This time, he is no longer alone. Abe’s analysis is interrupted when Oda tells him to give him a fastball and that if he does, he will not hit it. This confirms Abe’s suspicion that Oda was asked to observe Mihashi. Abe asks for a shoot - strike. Abe took that stunt as a sign that Mihoshi is not taking them seriously and with that, handing them the win.
After striking out, Oda quickly goes to find Kanou to talk about Mihashi’s “floating” ball. Meanwhile, Hatake gets ready to bat. Seeing Hatake causes Mihashi to remember painful memories. As he looks to the catcher, he is relieved, knowing that no matter who it is, Abe will always be there to lead him. Hatake retires after the first pitch because he misread Mihashi’s screwball for a straight. Abe thinks how Hatake might be the most troublesome hitter, being a catcher and playing with Mihashi for 3 years, but he couldn't tell Mihashi's screwball from a fastball. Hatake will not pose a threat if he keeps on looking down Mihashi’s abilities.
Kanou divulges the secret to Mihashi’s pitch, which he was able to discover after practicing with Mihashi back in middle school. Apparently, the speed and angle of Mihashi’s pitches are an unusual mix and causes many players to miscalculate and thus, causing them to miss. Back in middle school, Mihashi managed to strike out many players using it. However, they always attributed it to be the batter’s fault. Eventually, the players would connect with a hit every time once they got the pitch down pat.
Oda is puzzled that their players are missing. Kanou promptly replies that it is all because of the catcher. The catcher has been reading their hitters perfectly and accurately predicting their actions. Oda shares he casually asked Abe to give him a fastball promising not to hit it. Hearing this, Kanou goes psycho and says if even the cleanup hitter is like that he'll lose to Mihashi again. Kanou never believed that Mihashi became an ace as a favor and he knows that he can never win against Mihashi. Kanou desperately pleads to Oda to help him win this match.
Mihashi receives a flood of praises from his teammates after retiring the side. At the dugout, Mihashi expresses how he enjoys being a pitcher and being on the mound. Abe gives Mihashi the good-guy-pose and tells him that he enjoys being the catcher as well. Momoe interrupts this heartwarming scene to tell them that it will only get more interesting from here as the game is only just beginning. Mihashi looks back at the mound and silently tells himself he has to pitch a lot more.
Notes: No obvious manga cuts. But it seems in the manga Abe asks for a fastball as Oda requested, but in the anime he asks for a shoot.