Gritty Tyler Friis plays role in vic­tory

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - By David S. Glasier dglasier@news-her­ @nh­glasier on Twit­ter

Tyler Friis of the Cap­tains is a throw­back player.

The way he looks and plays sum­mons im­ages of gritty guys with base­bal­lap­pro­pri­ate nick­names like Dirt or Spike.

At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Friis (pro­nounced freeze) doesn’t cut an im­pos­ing n fig­ure un­til he pulls on the uni­form and takes his place at the plate, on the basepa­ths or at any of the three in­field po­si­tions he’s manned this sea­son.

Then he looks like a se­ri­ous young man go­ing about his busi­ness with pur­pose.

“There is only one way to play this game, and that is hard,” Friis said on May 17 be­fore the Cap­tains and South Bend (Ind.) Cubs fin­ished a six-game series with a day game at Clas­sic Park.

Cap­tains man­ager Luke Car­lin smiled when the con­ver­sa­tion turned to Friis, whose nick­names at var­i­ous times have been “Dirt­bag” and “Grinder.”

“He’s in­tense, for sure.,” Car­lin said. “It’s great to watch him play, all out, ev­ery day.”

Friis, a switch hit­ter, left his mark on Lake County’s 7-0 vic­tory.

He sin­gled to lead off the bot­tom of the sixth in­ning, ad­vanced to sec­ond base on a sin­gle by Austen Wade and rode home with what proved to be the win­ning run on a three-run home run by Os­car Gon­za­lez.

The Cap­tains made it 5-0 in the bot­tom of the sixth on a two-run home run by Ulysses Cantu. They fin­ished the scor­ing in the bot­tom of the eighth on a tape-mea­sure solo home run by Will Ben­son and an RBI grounder by Miguel Ela­dio.

Laker County starter and even­tual win­ner Francisco Perez (2-3, 4.54 ERA) set the tone by blank­ing the Cubs over six in­nings on six hits. Re­liev­ers Tommy DeJuneas and Kyle Nel­son took it the rest of the way to se­cure the Cap­tains’ sec­ond shutout vic­tory of the sea­son.

Friis’ num­bers this sea­son don’t jump off the page. In 28 games, he’s bat­ting .242 with one home run, 14 RBI and a .339 on-base per­cent­age..

But it’s the way Friis plays the game, and his ver­sa­til­ity, that caught Car­lin’s at­ten­tion last year when he man­aged Friis at short­sea­son Sin­gle-A Ma­hon­ing Val­ley

“Some guys who aren’t that im­pos­ing phys­i­cally feel like they have to play with a lit­tle more in­ten­sity, a lit­tle more fe­roc­ity,” Car­lin said. “Tyler plays with a chip on his shoul­der. That in­ten­sity makes him a bet­ter player.”

Friis, 22, was born and raised in Auburn, Wash­ing­ton, a city of 70,000 be­tween Ta­coma and Seattle in the north­west part of the state. He was re­cruited to far­away In­di­ana State Univer­sity, where he played for man­ager and for­mer ISU Al­lAmer­i­can in­fielder Mitch Han­nahs.

“I had op­tions com­ing out of high school, but that coach­ing staff and pro­gram felt like the right fit for me,” Friis said.

Friis thrived play­ing for the Sy­camores in the rugged Mis­souri Val­ley Con­fer­ence.

“I was a lit­tle soft com­ing out of high school. They toughen you up pretty quickly out there,” Friis said.

Af­ter three solid sea­sons at ISU, Friis was se­lected by the In­di­ans in the 21st round of the 2017 draft. This sea­son, he’s started

11 games apiece at short­stop and sec­ond base and six at third base. He said he’s com­fort­able play­ing any of those po­si­tions and could han­dle him­self at any of the out­field po­si­tions, as well.

Friis was asked if, in an ex­treme sit­u­a­tion, he could play al nine po­si­tions in a game, in­clud­ing pitcher.

“Oh, yeah, 100 per­cent,” he said.

Car­lin pointed to the tough­ness shown by Friis af­ter he col­lided with South Bend baserun­ner Chris Sin­gle­ton in the opener of a dou­ble­header at Clas­sic Park on May 15. Friis, play­ing sec­ond base, broke to cover the bag at first af­ter Sin­gle­ton put down an at­tempted sac­ri­fice bunt. The throw by Lake County pitcher Sky­lar Arias pulled Friis to­ward the base­line and into the path of the on­rush­ing Sin­gle­ton.

Both play­ers were shaken by the col­li­sion. Friis took the brunt of the hit and was on the ground for a short time, face down, un­til he rolled over and left the field un­der his own power.

“The fact he was able to stand up and wasn’t bleed­ing was a huge re­lief. He didn’t want to come out for any­thing,” Car­lin said.

Friis did leave the game, how­ever, and was held out of the night­cap. Come the next morn­ing, though, he was back in the line-up.


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