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The Practice Match (練習試合 "Renshū Shiai") also known as "Play!" is the third chapter of the manga.

SynopsisEdit

The practice game starts ! Inferiority complexes are shown through, bonds deepen even more, and confidence builds up.

SummaryEdit

Mihashi is seen watching Kanō pitch and starts getting worried. Abe tells Mihashi to practice with Izumi as he will need to get his catcher gear off. Hanai mentions that the way Mihashi and Mihoshi act like nobody would be able to tell they used to be a team. Abe says that the team still holds a grudge against him and Mihashi thinks he deserves what they're doing. Mizutani asks why it's so important for them to win in this practice game. Abe yells at him that it's important for them to win for Mihashi to get over the past. If they were to lose then they would be stuck with Mihashi for 3 years and that they would be losing the games they could win.

Abe says that if Mihashi will ever become the pitcher Abe knows he can be, they must win the game. Hanai asks if this isn't just a practice game but like a battle for their starting pitcher. Sakaeguchi says that he didn't understand what the Coach meant when she asked who wanted Mihashi earlier but now he does. The team says that they will all play at their best today. Coach Momoe smiles as she planned this practice game for Mihashi.

The game soon begins with Sakaeguchi batting first. Sakaeguchi bunts to third but Kanō manages to throw the ball to first making the first out. Afterwards Oki swings but also gets out. Abe goes up to bat and strike out. Abe goes back to the bench and Mihashi is there eager to help him with his equipment. Abe tells Mihashi that he knows Mihashi is hiding behind Abe but there's no place for him to hide when he's on the mound.

It's Mihoshi's turn at bat and Mihashi walks up to the mound. He is determined to pitch the best he can no matter what. Miyagawa is first up to bat and Abe gives Mihashi to throw a full strength fastball. Mihashi, not able to control it, throws the ball at Miyagawa who dodges it. His teammates yell at Miyagawa saying that Mihashi's ball couldn't hurt him, but Miyagawa thinks that Mihashi's pitches have gotten faster. Mihashi realizes that Abe wanted the ball to miss the strike zone to ruin the batter's focus. Mihashi throws a slider which goes from a strike to a ball and Miyagawa hits a grounder to Mihashi and he gets out.

Miyagawa says that Mihashi's pitching faster after he is asked why he struggled to hit the ball when he's hit it many times. Kanō tells Oda that he may have a hard time with Mihashi's pitching which confuses Oda. During the conversation Hirawagi strikes out. Yoshi also strikes out making Oda excited for his at bat. Abe thinks that if they keep this up they may get a shutout. The next inning starts with Tajima's at bat. For the first 2 pitches Tajima stays still for no reason as if he is not even going to try to swing. The next pitch is a ball and Abe thinks that the next pitch will be a forkball. He notices that Tajima is getting serious for the next pitch and he thinks that Tajima may be waiting for the forkball. Kanō throws a forkball and Tajima manages to hit it and safely get to 2nd base.

The team yells out 'Nice batting!' making Coach Momoe proud. Hanai goes up to bat and Coach Momoe gives him a sign to swing away. Hanai waits for the forkball like Tajima did but when he gets it he swings and misses. In the end Hanai struck out and Tajima stole 3rd base. Coach Momoe asks Hanai why he let 2 hittable pitches fly past him. He says that he thought he could hit the forkball. Coach Momoe understands and tells him to think of a way to hit it at his next at bat.

She tells the team that Tajima is an exceptional player but because of his small body he won't manage to hit many, if any, homers. What Coach Momoe is trying to tell them is that Tajima can't score runs by himself and that the team must help him even if they want to score a run. During this time, Suyama gets a fly out and Izumi gets a strike out wasting Tajima's double. Hanai thinks that if he didn't try to show off then Nishiura would have scored.

Abe tells Mihashi that he will try and get as much data out of Oda as possible and that he might score a run. Mihashi is impressed by Abe and is glad that he is on his side. Mihashi throws a high fastball outside the zone. Oda didn't make any attempt to move so Abe makes him throw the same pitch but low. Oda stays in his 'statue' mode however and gets another ball. Abe thinks that someone told Oda to watch Mihashi's odd fastball so he signals Mihashi to throw a curveball instead. Oda gets a strike and notices that the pitch was on the edge of the strike zone. Mihashi throws the same pitch and Oda hits with ease. The ball goes foul however.

Mihashi starts to get scared but remembers that Abe told him that he might get a hit. He realizes that he is not alone like in Middle school and that Abe is there for him now. Abe thinks that Oda just happened to overswing which is why the ball went foul. He notices Oda's long arms and believes that Oda is the kind of player that hits home runs unlike Tajima.

Oda asks Abe to throw a fast ball and promises not to hit it. Abe is now certain that someone told him to watch Mihashi's fast ball. He gives Mihashi to throw a screwball, low and inside instead though. Oda wasn't actually lying though and ended up striking out.

Afterwards Oda offers to practice with Kanō. He says that Mihashi's fast ball looked like it floated and Kanō told him that pitches that slow couldn't float. Oda asks Kanō what he really knows and Kanō says that Mihashi's pitch is faster than a slow fastball. Hatake is next to bat and Mihashi pitches a screwball which Hatake mistakes for a screw ball. He hits it but it's caught mid-flight. Abe thought that Hatake would be a big threat but if he keeps under estimating Mihashi then he would always be able to get out.

The episode cuts back to Oda and Kanō's conversation. Oda asks Kanō what he means when he says that Mihashi's pitch is faster than a slow fast ball. Kanō says that whenever he asked Mihashi to throw a fast ball he would throw the weirdest pitches. He said that when he brought it up to the rest of the team they thought he was nuts. Kanō thinks that Mihashi's fast ball is caused by the speed and angle he's throwing at not syncing up right. He says that Mihashi's fast ball has less back spin and drops a bit lower. Back in Junior High he got some strikes with that pitch but they said their opponents were just really bad.

Back in Mihoshi the team were used to Mihashi's odd pitches so they could always hit it during batting practice. Oda says that it's not really helping them in the game. Kanō says that it has more to do with the catcher's pitch calling. He asks Oda to tell him what was pitched to him before he tells him that the catcher read Oda like an open book and that is what's happening to the rest of the team. Oda tells Kanō that he asked Abe to give him a fast ball and promised not to hit it.

Kanō's demeanour suddenly changes and he asks Oda if he actually wanted to win. Oda says that he does and he just thought he would hit the ball next time. Kanō says that Oda is also under estimating Mihashi despite the fact that he's the clean-up hitter. He says that he refuses to lose to Mihashi again. Oda asks Kanō what he means by again as Mihashi only got on the team because of his grand father. Kanō says that Hatake is the only person that still thinks that and that he's starting to reach the point where he doesn't even think he can beat Mihashi and that if he feels that way he doesn't deserve to be on the mound. Kanō begs Oda to help him win this game as he may never play against Mihashi again.

Karuda strikes out and Mihashi starts to feel happy. He tells Abe that he's actually having fun on the mound unlike before. Abe says that he is having a good time too. Coach Momoe starts to laugh and says that the fun is just getting started and that the real fun comes later. Mihashi thinks that she is right and that his position on the mound is no mistake anymore.

Characters in Order of AppearanceEdit

  1. Azusa Hanai
  2. Takaya Abe
  3. Fumiki Mizutani
  4. Yūichirō Tajima
  5. Maria Momoe
  6. Yūto Sakaeguchi
  7. Shōji Suyama
  8. Kazutoshi Oki
  9. Shintarou Nishihiro
  10. Ren Mihashi
  11. Atsushi Hatake
  12. Shūgo Kanō
  13. Hiroyuki Oda
  14. Miyagawa ( Mihoshi Player )
  15. Chiyo Shino'oka
  16. Kousuke Izumi
  17. Tsuyoshi Shiga
  18. Mihoshi player

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