Ep 9: Past
Musashino is down 3-0 in the fourth inning, when Haruna takes over the mound, confirming Abe’s statements earlier. Sakaeguchi wonders if it is also true that Haruna will only throw 80 pitches.
Abe recalls how his body would shake uncontrollably whenever he was in front of Haruna. He endured the fear and the pain, knowing that he could become a regular, if he could somehow handle his pitches.
Abe reveals that Haruna gets strikeouts as much as base on balls (walks). Hearing this, Sakaeguchi assumes that perhaps it is due to Haruna’s lack of control that is why Abe regards him as the worst pitcher.
Flashback: The coach called for a young Abe (middle school first year, probably 7th grade) to meet Haruna (second year, eighth grade). Haruna barely acknowledged his presence. Haruna wasted no time and made his absolute 80-pitch rule known to the coach. Haruna remarked on how Abe would not be able to handle his pitches. Abe assured him that his catching skills are not bad, prompting Haruna to challenge him to prove his words. That afternoon, after trying to catch Haruna's pitch, Abe hunched down and winced in pain. Over time, Abe bore a bruised body from his practices with Haruna. When Haruna finally acknowledged his efforts, Abe was elated.
Sakaeguchi calls Mihashi over. He tells Abe that he and Mihashi are both wondering why he calls Haruna the worst pitcher.
“They didn’t even finish announcing the batter’s name and Haruna struck him out already,” comments Kazuki of Tosei. He turns to wake up Rio, but finds him already awake and all riled up. Kazuki casually asks if Rio has something against Haruna, when Junta offers his explanation. Roka, coach of Bijou Dai Saiyama, invited Haruna to join the team, whereas he did not invite his own brother, Rio.
Abe shares that he became a regular due to Haruna, the ace. After hearing this, Sakaeguchi finally admits how he feels uneasy about Abe calling his former teammate and pitcher, Haruna, the worst. Abe looks to a panicking Mihashi to confirm if he feels the same way too. “What kind of reaction is that?!” Abe exclaims as he grinds his fists to Mihashi’s head. A stuttering Mihashi struggles to respond, “I know I am a bad pitcher, but I will try my hardest to pitch.” Abe emphasizes how Mihashi is nothing like Haruna, who is playing baseball to become a pro.
Even after Haruna got the ace number, he still wouldn't throw more than 80 pitches, and in games that weren't worth his best effort, he wouldn't throw even one pitch at full strength. One time Haruna got a mosquito bite so he wouldn't throw a slider. Abe mentions he heard Haruna was injured in junior high (apparently before he joined the Sneior League) and since he was self-centered to begin with, that only fueled his defensive instincts.
Flashback: Haruna doesn'tt want to work on signs with Abe since only half his pitches go where he intends. Abe complains about Haruna ignoring his signs and about his lousy control. Haruna responds that pitchers have that right.
Present: Abe thinks how it's true pitchers can shake off signs but then they'll end up doing whatever they want. But despite all that he felt he was lucky to have teamed up with Haruna. He thought they were a good battery until "that game."
Flashback: Miname Asagaya leads Toda North 5-0 after the top of the first inning. Haruna thinks it's impossible, but Abe doesn't want to give up since if they win, Toda North will make it to the top 8. Abe bows to Haruna and asks him to pitch his best. Haruna absolutely refuses to take a risk of injury from pitching full strength in a middle school game. In exchange, Haruna agrees to pitch what ABe calls. But it doesn't matter since half his pitches don't go where Abe calls for anyway. In the middle of the game after throwing his 80th pitch, Haruna leaves the mound, with bases loaded no outs, leaving a bewildered Abe questioning his importance as a catcher. They got crushed 21-7. After the game, Haruna catches Abe crying in the bathroom. Rage takes over Abe as he grabs hold of Haruna and slams him to the wall. Haruna shows no remorse over the game. Rather, he's worried over the possibility of Abe injuring his left shoulder and demands Abe let go of him.
Present: Abe expresses how the team was just Haruna’s tool. Even though they were teamed until Haruna retired, they had a lot of fights. Their view of baseball and Haruna’s are nothing alike. Though Abe agrees that Haruna is truly a remarkable player, but as the team’s ace, he is the worst of his kind.
Mihashi suddenly curls up. He understands that Abe is unable to forgive Haruna, not because he was the team’s ace, but because he was Abe’s own ace. Abe just wanted to have a good battery with Haruna and wishes for him to treasure their time together.
When Mihashi finally looks up, Abe tells him that he should get a hold of his crying. He continues to say that while on the mound, an expressionless face would work, but a smiling face would be better. Not only will it put his teammates at ease, it will also annoy the heck out of the opponents. Mihashi knows that if it is Abe, he will definitely pitch.
At the top of the ninth, Musashino leads by a run with a man out and all bases empty. The count is 2-1 when Haruna turns to face where Abe is and shows him the ball. Abe immediately calls Tajima to observe Haruna. Haruna uses his all out pitch, but the catcher is unable to handle it. Tajima is disappointed that the next one was just a normal pitch.
The contest ends with a score of 4-3 in Musashino’s favor. Momoe rounds up the boys to leave. On the Tosei side, Junta complains that they wasted so much time just to see a single pitch from Haruna. Kazuki thinks it is already fortunate that they got to see one. Kazuki explains that the problem is probably with the catcher. Rio silently slams Haruna’s poor choice of school, instead of going to his brother’s team, losing the chance of working with a good catcher.
Musashino exempts Haruna and Akimaru from doing cleanup work. Haruna rushes to the stands only to find that Abe has already left. Akimaru chases Haruna outside and get into a conversation about Abe. Haruna apparently talked a lot about Abe to Akimaru who went to the same middle school as Haruna. Haruna left the middle school baseball team for the Senior League team while Akimaru stayed on the school team. Akimaru notes that Haruna would compare him to Abe, saying that there was an interesting first year on the Senior team, as if he were boasting about Abe. Haruna acknowledges that Abe was a pretty good catcher (as he was the only one on the team who could catch his pitches), but is annoyed that Abe called him "the worst." Haruna claims he doesn't know why. Akimaru recalls how scary Haruna was back in middle school when he was having problems, no one would approach him at home or at school, and sympathizes with Abe. Ever since then though, Haruna has been slowly returning to normal and Akimaru has Abe to thank for that.
The Nishiura team runs behind Momoe as they return to their practice field.