What was that I heard Furuya saying from the dugout again? Oh, that’s right – not a fucking thing, because he could never be bothered to offer a word of encouragement to a teammate, much less when his own role in the game is over. This game may as well be over as far as Furuya is concerned, if it weren’t for the fact that he’s clearly displeased by Eijun’s success, seeing it as a potential threat to his status. We even got the rarest of all occurrences in Japanese youth sports this week, a coach actually praising a player to his face – but nothing whatsoever from the ace.
I’ve said it before, but it’s generally easy to predict which episodes of Diamond no Ace are going to be the good ones, and this one projected as a winner from the beginning. It’s not only Haurichi that gets a special feeling when Eijun pitches – the whole show does. And while we’ve seen Eijun have success before, this seems like a different pitcher – more mature, not giving the feeling of being perpetually on the brink of chaos that he did before. But the nice thing is that even with his growth as a pitcher on-display, he’s still a baka – giving speeches to his fielders after surrendering a hit, giving batting lessons to Toujo from the dugout, embarrassing the hell out of Haruchin.
That Eijun’s able to shut Teitou out for 2 2/3 innings using exclusively outside pitches is remarkable, but there’s going to be a limit this run of success and everyone knows it, whether Eijun hits it in this game or not. Miyuki finally calls for an inside pitch at what seems to be a pretty good time – with the Teitou cleanup Inui at the plate with two outs and the bases empty. It fails, as Eijun can’t bring himself to throw off the plate inside, and Inui smacks the pitch for a double. But what’s striking is that Eijun doesn’t panic or fold as a result – he accepts his limitations and goes back to what’s been working, and gets out of the inning unscathed.
Unfortunately for Seidou Eijun’s pitching alone can never be enough, as Furuya has already allowed the only run of the game. And Taiyou-kun proves pretty unflappable, sticking to his strategy of using all of the plate and getting hitters to chase bad balls.The downside here is that Taiyou’s pitching runs up big pitch counts, as he’s always playing it fine and never pitching to contact, and that leaves him with a pitch count in the 120s in the 7th inning. Okamoto-kantoku elects to stick with the youngster for the same reason discussed here last week – because allowing an inexperienced pitcher to pitch through trouble is how they grow into a true ace. It’s a legitimate approach (though I dislike letting a high-schooler, especially a first-year, rack up that many pitches), just as it was when Ochiai proposed applying it to Furuya.
For now, Taiyou still stands tall as the best of the rookie pitchers in this game. But he does get into some trouble nibbling at the corners, and when he gets into a second-and-third, two-out jam in the 8th, Teitou pays Haruichi a huge compliment – they walk him to get to Maezono. It’s quite an honor for a first-year to be intentionally walked at all, but also a real slap in the face to the #3 hitter Maezono. He’s done nothing to merit any respect from this pitcher though, so Teitou did the right thing. But now the gauntlet has really been thrown down before Maezono, for whom this is a real embarrassment – does he have the ability to pick it up?