By Mirin Fader
Michael Frias said he relishes the responsibility that comes with pitching.
"The game revolves around your time, your speed," said Frias, a senior right-hander for Servite High School. "The game can't happen without you throwing that pitch. That's why I love it: You're in control of what happens."
His favorite part? The solitude of being on the mound, a feeling only pitchers can understand.
"Whether you do great, whether you fail, you're always alone," he said. "It feels like the loneliest spot in the world at times."
He takes comfort there, assuming he pitches well. Fortunately for the Friars (15-8, 4-4), he is thriving. Frias has recorded a 4-2 record and is averaging 5.5 strikeouts per game. He has 44 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched, with a 1.82 earned run average.
Frias threw a complete game one-hitter against JW North on March 18 and an 8-inning complete game three-hitter vs. Orange Lutheran on April 26.
"He's a leader," said Shawn Gilbert, Servite's head coach. "It's one thing when nobody expects you to do well and you can do well, and get that going and build off that confidence, but when you're expected to do it there's a little bit more pressure."
"That makes it a little more difficult to perform at your best," Gilbert said. "He's expected to do well every week and he's responded, so the maturity of that, and taking on those expectations and delivering, I think that's probably where he's at his best."
Frias, who said he could throw a baseball before he could walk, has long had a passion for baseball. The moment he fell in love with the game was when he was 13, playing for the Irvine Pony All Stars and winning the Pony World Series. His former coach, the late Wally Wong, taught a fundamental style of the game based on having fun, work ethic and good sportsmanship.
Inspired, Frias carried that mentality to high school. "The genuine baseball that we played, that's what made me fall in love with the game. Playing the game hard, playing the game the right way."
He thrived for Servite as a sophomore, and continued the trend early on last season, his junior season. But he quickly felt tightness, which led to shoulder and elbow tendinitis.
He was forced to leave the mound for six weeks. He came back toward the end of the season, but it was disappointing for him to not be able to be there for his teammates.
"It wasn't where I wanted to be or where I thought I should have been my junior year," Frias said. "But it's really motivated me this year."
"The motivation, it's really come from the coaches and my teammates," Frias continued. "The fact that we play for Servite and not the name on the back – we don't even have names on the back of our jerseys."
The team recently beat Orange Lutheran 4-0 and 2-0 in eight innings.
"It's just an environment I love being in," Frias said of Servite's program. "This is arguably one of our best starts in the last five years at Servite. We're hoping to make the playoffs again. We had a really good chance my freshman year, but it didn't happen, so we're just looking for that. That's what I'm working toward."