Weiss looking to build on solid freshman season

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Sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss, flinging the ball across the diamond, did plenty of damage at the plate last season, too. Weiss, the only of three Texas hitters that batted better than .300 in 2011, led the Longhorns with a .348 batting average and 45 RBI. (Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Corey Leamon | Daily Texan Staff

Texas’ leading hitter last season can’t recall what his batting average was in 2011.

“I don’t really remember. I’m not sure, but I think it ended up somewhere in the .340s,” said Longhorns third baseman Erich Weiss, a .348 hitter a year ago. “I hope it turns out to be better this year than last year. But I’m just going to do whatever I can to help the team win. I’m not going to try to be selfish.”

Weiss vividly remembers how his freshman year ended. It ended in Omaha at the College World Series last June. Two days after falling to Florida, the Longhorns lost to North Carolina, going 0-2 in their NCAA-record 34th College World Series appearance. Weiss was 0-for-3 at the plate in the season finale.

“It stung a little bit at the end,” Weiss said. “I think we could have played a little bit better. It was a hard game. They were a very good team. Hats off to them.”

Now, Weiss and his teammates are aiming for a better showing in Omaha this year. With the sophomore from Brenham being the only of Texas’ top four hitters from last season coming back, Weiss will likely play a big role in getting the Longhorns back to the College World Series. Weiss also led the team with 45 RBIs in 2011 and will attempt to avoid a sophomore slump in 2012.

“What can happen — and we don’t know whether it will or not — is that he can decide that he has to do too much,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “If he does that, then he’ll have a down year. If he comes out and just keeps baseball simple and continues to have fun with it, which is kind of his personality, he’ll be fine. He’ll make important contributions again to the team, offensively and defensively.”

Last year, Weiss was part of a lineup that included three freshmen. Now those sophomores don’t have as many upperclassmen to lean on, especially with senior starting pitcher Sam Stafford and junior center fielder Cohl Walla lost for the season due to injuries. Only two upperclassmen position players will likely be in the opening day lineup with junior Hoby Milner the only upperclassman in this weekend’s rotation. This leaves guys like Weiss to step up into leadership roles.

“Sometimes I can be vocal. I like to lead by example,” Weiss said. [Sophomore catcher Jacob] Felts and [sophomore right fielder] Mark [Payton] are huge leaders on this team. [Junior outfielder] Jonathan Walsh is another one of those and I know [senior second baseman] Jordan Etier is an unbelievable leader on this team.”

The Longhorns aren’t returning any of their three starting pitchers from 2011 with the departures of Taylor Jungmann, who received a $2.5 million signing bonus from the Milwaukee Brewers, Cole Green, who got drafted in the ninth round by the Cincinnati Reds and Stafford, who is having shoulder surgery soon. Those three players helped Texas compile a 2.45 ERA, the second best in the country while it checked in at No. 224 in the nation with a .269 team batting average. This season, it might be up to Weiss and the offense to shoulder more of the load.

“I think this offense is headed for a great year,” Weiss said. “We’ve been hitting the ball so well right now. Supporting this pitching staff, which is a great pitching staff, will only lead to good things.”

If Weiss has his way, one of those good things will be getting back to Omaha.

“There’s always the expectation to go to Omaha for the Texas Longhorns,” Weiss said. “We want to go to Omaha again this year and we’re all going to give it our best effort to get back there.”

Printed on Friday, February 17, 2012 as: Longhorns' best hitter in 2011 poised for another solid season