Veteran Leader

Sikes Orvis has been with Ole Miss baseball for two seasons. This year the junior is one of the team's leaders and veterans.

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During fall baseball, the Floridian made it a goal to take another step and be the best player he can be for the Rebels in 2014.

"I really tried to grow up a lot this fall," said the 6-foot-2, 225-pound infielder. "Just picking Coach (Cliff) Godwin's and Coach (Stephen) Head's heads about good hitting approaches and trying to hit ahead in good hitter's counts. That's really helped me a lot. Knowing what's going to come and not trying to outsmart the pitcher but have a good idea what you're doing at the plate."

One area of progress for not only Orvis but for the entire Rebel team has been in strength and conditioning. New coach, Ben Fleming, from Kansas State and before that Central Florida, has made a difference for the team since his arrival this summer.

"Ben's awesome," Orvis said. "He really kicked our butts at first. But you've got to believe. Everything he's done has really helped us. You can see us with more of a ‘refuse to lose' mentality. Everybody just has each other's backs. It's really bringing everybody together. It's like a cohesive team now."

Orvis said for the players it was as much mental as physical as far as the improvements Fleming's made.

"A lot of the conditioning was just a real big refuse to lose mentality. Whatever it takes. Just find a way until the very end," he said. "Not fold. Embrace adversity. Keep rolling. Don't let it get you down."

That's the approach Orvis has taken, and head coach Mike Bianco said he's seen Orvis make strides.

"He had just a tremendous fall," Bianco said. "We've been waiting for this for a couple of years. We've seen bits and pieces of it but not a collective effort like the two months (this fall).

"One of the biggest things is just confidence," Bianco continued. "Look at him at the plate. Look at him in the field. He looks like a different guy. He looks so comfortable out there. He's able to put bad at-bats behind him and keep swinging. When you're a player like him and you've got the power and the confidence, things start to happen for you."

The Rebels experienced a lot of injuries in the fall. That made things like this happen – Orvis to third base for some of the innings. And he liked it there. But he doesn't think he'll stay.

"Ever since Preston (Overbey) hurt his back, I played there," Orvis said. "I played a little bit of third base in high school. It's been a little different. But it's been fun. I like it. But I don't think so," he continued as to whether he thought he'd be at third base come spring. "When Preston's healthy, I think they'll throw me back over there at first base."

"Because of the injuries we had to do that," Bianco said. "But Sikes has done terrific. He's handled it all – slow rollers, made diving catches on a bunt – just terrific. He's been here a few years now. He has a lot of confidence. You can put him just about anywhere."

Sikes Orvis
Bruce Newman

One of the areas Orvis has stepped up has been as a leader. Always a quiet player with a determined approach, he's become more visible, a bit more vocal, and even more productive at the plate and in the field. And that was his intent.

Orvis sees that type approach and willingness throughout the team, both from young and old.

"There are a lot of new faces," he said. "We don't have the big guys like the Stus (Stuart Turner), Mikes (Mike Mayers), and Bobbys (Bobby Wahl). We've got a lot of guys who are willing to do whatever it takes to get after it. Everybody is there for each other. A lot of the older guys are picking up the new guys. A lot of the new guys are not afraid of anything and are getting after it.

"We all know that when you first get here you, everything happens so fast," Orvis continued. "Everything's going so fast. All the coaches are new. You're almost intimidated by it all. What I tell the new players is to just come out there and play ball. Remember it's fun and it's the same game."

It's what some important veterans now gone did for him and his class when they arrived a couple of years ago.

"It's hard to believe my class is all juniors now," Orvis said. "We were at one time looking up to the Alex Yarbroughs and the Matt Snyders, all those guys. Now we're in that role. So I like it. They look up to you and what you say. It's a lot more responsibility. You've got to do what you've got to do. You have to lead by example, and help guys if they need help."

His team will need his help, too. That goes for productivity as much as anything.

"My big thing is driving in runs. That's why I'm here. That's my job," Orvis said. "If guys are on base, it's my job to get them in. So I've really focused on that this fall. It doesn't matter if they're on first, second, or third, I'm trying to score them any way I can. That's what I've been real focused on. And trying to drive some pitches.

"The coaches have really harped on me to get into hitter's counts, 2-0, 2-1. To get a swing off. Just try to be scary up there. Once I did that this fall, I started to have more success. That's helped me a lot."

And hopefully will into the spring as another Ole Miss baseball season starts again in mid-February.

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