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.
This episode was the conclusion of the Seido and Hakuryu game, with our protagonist Eijun Sawamura pitching all 9 innings whilst only giving up a single run in the 8th. To me, it was surprising that Coach Kataoka allowed him to go on for so long, the card showing that he did 140 pitches over the stretch of all innings. However, I believe this was the only game that Sawamura was going to be playing in during Golden Week and perhaps Kataoka wanted to see Eijun’s consistency across an entire game; whether-or-not he would begin fading in later innings due to fatigue, mental breakdowns, or simply a loss of pitching ability (due to a lack of speed, accuracy, or a mixture of the two).
Hakuryu, as I said before, is supposedly one of the best (if not the best) “small ball” teams in Tokyo. Their goal is to use players with extremely fast run speeds to get on base and apply pressure with their running game (huge leads, stealing bases, etc). However, they were being shut down due to Sawamura being adept at picking off and also reducing run leads from players already on base while not growing tense from having to pick from the stretch. You can tell this frustrated Hakuryu’s players as they were not at all use to someone who remained as calm and cool as Sawamura did.
After the game it was obvious that Furuya was questioning himself, his abilities, and looking back at Sawamura’s motivations. You can clearly see the difference between the protagonist and his rival, and their ambitions and goals being completely different to achieve the same dream of winding up at Koshien stadium as the Ace. However, this game marked a major turning point at Seido to me, seeing as Sawamura has consistently proved his consistency and managed to hold the hardest team they faced during Golden Week down to a single run.
Besides our protagonist finally getting his time to shine, we got to see a couple of other things as well. Mainly we got to see a few other pitchers from the first and second string strut their stuff, as well as a surprising find of Okumura as a talented catcher. I believe they are setting up a battery for Sawamura and Okumura, but I have no idea if this is for Sawamura’s 3rd year (if it goes that far), or if something will happen to Miyuki and he will need to step in. Either way, he is becoming a very prominent character.
Ochiai is someone I am worried about, as he always says “heavily influenced by me”. I have no idea whether he believes himself to be inferior and his coaching ideology will clash with Kataoka’s, or if he is narcissistic and believes he will be pulling the best out of players and show-up the main coach. I do know he said Okumura could be the “best catcher in Tokyo”, just like he said that Furuya could be the “best pitcher in Tokyo”. This is offsetting to me because it put the wrong idea into Furuya’s head about the responsibility of a pitcher, I believe that mindset of carrying the team alone is what is causing his current predicament and I do not want Ochiai to infect Okumura in a way that cripples him with false ideologies.
Overall, I liked the episode heavily and glad that Sawamura did not breakdown. I like that they are really beginning to reward him and bring out the unique tool we seen from the very first episode of this entire series. I believe he will be announced as Ace when they start passing out numbers, at least, I am hoping so. I believe, even though Furuya’s power is crazy and he is nigh untouchable when on fire, he is too much of a wild card with his pitching accuracy. Kataoka already took him out of the game against Hakuryu due to him getting overly risky to try and put the team ahead, I believe he will come down even harder since he is trying to make up for having too much faith in him and none at all in Sawamura.