This article uses information that may be considered a SPOILER. Please understand that reading beyond this point may cause you to learn about things you may not have known about if you are not knowledgeable on the topic. You have been warned.
Episode 15 continued the Seido vs Ichidai game that we got to see in Episode 14 — Presence, and Furuya is still doing just as bad as he was previously. Finally deciding that a pitcher change needs to happen, relief pitcher Sawamura is exchanged for their ace and gets two straight strikeouts (without throwing a single ball) to successfully close the inning and effectively halts Ichidai from getting anymore runs while being pressured by loaded bases. This episode to me is one of the best ones this season; it effectively shows Sawamura’s improvement, Coach Kataoka’s reasoning, and a decisive point in how everyone views our protagonist when compared to Furuya.
The first thing I want to talk about is Sawamura’s improvement overall as a pitcher. After overcoming the yips, which only allowed him to throw on the outside, we see a gradually climb in his ability. Teito High School Coach Ippachi Okamoto commented in the stands about how Sawamura gave them trouble when facing him before, and even the last batter Eijun faced commented about how he held Kasuga First scoreless regardless of the fact he was not used much at Koshien Stadium. Consistency is something that Sawamura seems to be excelling in, we seen mentions of that back in Episode 10 — Debut. While we did no get to see him running any “numbers”, it was amazing that only his fastballs (outside, inside, and change-ups) were enough to beat both batters due to Sawamura’s accuracy and irregular pitching form.
Something else we got to see is Kataoka’s reasoning when it comes to coaching the team and why he did not immediately pull in Sawamura when it was clear Furuya was having an extremely poor showing (which is something that the Teito coach also commented on). Coach Ochiai looked at Kataoka and remembered a time when the latter said he would not sacrifice the team for Furuya’s growth, but it becomes very apparent from his willingness to let the Ace stay in that he was. Also, reading baseball journals of what Furuya wants could also be the reason we see him trying to allow the Ace to flourish and overcome that bad situation.
Guilt is seen in Kataoka after Sawamura strikes out the last two batters with bases loaded; this and Coach Ochiai’s thoughts of “giving up two or three more runs” shows a lack of confidence in anyone but Furuya to pitch. Also, Teito’s coach pointed out how plainly obvious how much of the team’s success they are putting into Furuya’s hands with not much of an expectation of Sawamura or Kawakami to help shoulder that burden as readily-available pitchers. I believe this is a point where the coach has to realize that Furuya has ambition, but Sawamura is accustomed to the hard work necessary and has the mindset from a relief pitcher on what his role in the team is.
The last one is how everyone sees Sawamura as compared to Furuya. Something that many fans watching have pointed out is the shine that the current Ace gets and how everyone lowballs Sawamura or disappointed when he is on the mound as opposed to the former. A situation like the one he was in would break many people, but the thing about it is that he was able to stay calm and cool and it was understood from everyone that he is a much better pitcher than they thought.
The next episode we see Sawamura up to bat (though he often just bunts or strikes out), and it would be cool to see him at least get a good hit off. For me, I am glad that things are turning around and I am glad my boy is finally getting his time to shine in the anime after seeing all he has been through; never have I rooted so hard and wanted an anime’s main character to do so well (aside from possibly Makunouchi Ippo from Hajime no Ippo). Cannot wait for Episode 16!