One Last Time

The first day of the Super Regional in Lafayette, La., was no ordinary day for Sikes Orvis as far as he and his team were concerned. Add to it that it was the final day of the MLB draft, and that made for an extraordinary day of major proportions.

Orvis, then a junior first baseman for Ole Miss, saw the draft come and he saw it go. And he never got a call that he was drafted.

“That was probably one of the longest days of my life,” said Orvis, now as a senior one of the leaders again in 2015 for Rebel baseball. “It was really tough. It was confusing. I didn’t know what happened. Between the scout meetings I’d had and the year I’d had, I thought I’d done enough to get drafted. For it not to happen, it was tough.”

When the last round was over and he wasn’t drafted, Orvis knew he had to regroup. He had to refocus on the task at hand. And he had to help his team do its best to get to Omaha for the College World Series.

“As soon as I went to that hitters meeting, I was like, ‘OK, we’re here. Let’s get going.’ It lit a fire under me that we were playing,” Orvis said. “And once we made it to Omaha, that made it all much better, of course.”

The Rebels did indeed win the Lafayette Super Regional and made their first appearance in Omaha in four decades. His team got to go once. Orvis actually got to go twice.

He was selected for the Home Run Derby and returned during the July 4 holiday to participate in that event.

“At first I was kinda hesitant because we’d had such a long season,” Orvis said of returning to the scene of the College World Series where the Rebels finished tied for third. “I was kinda ready for a break. I talked to Coach (Mike Bianco) about it, and he was like ‘I think it would be a great experience and great for the school.’ The home run derby people said we could use the old bats and big league balls. So it turned out great. It was a sold out crowd, and one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”

It was the end of a tremendous junior season for Orvis, both as an individual and as a team player. At that point he began to focus on having the best senior season he could have. And that continues now as preseason practice begins next week.

The process actually began last fall when school started for the 2014-15 year.

“I thought last fall (2013) was tough. This fall was tougher,” Orvis said. “We have a target on our backs because of last year. So we have to do more. We have to be even better prepared for this season than we were last year.”

Since he wasn’t drafted, Orvis has dedicated himself to being an even better player. He knows there are reasons he is still at Ole Miss, which is fine with him, and not playing professional baseball just yet.

“I guess maybe get a little faster and improve my defense,” he said as ways he feels he has to improve. “I’m kinda one-dimensional, a power left-handed hitter. Maybe I can become a more complete hitter. Try to go the other way more. That’s what we worked on all fall. Become a better athlete, a better defensive player, more of a complete hitter. I felt like we did that this fall.”

Still, even with all those areas he wants to see improvement in his game, he said he understands his main role completely.

“I’m here to hit,” Orvis said. “I know that.”

It’s one of the primary reasons he was recruited to Ole Miss. He came in during the summer of 2011, and there was a stellar group of young talent in that class. Orvis remembers.

“We had that special class,” he said. “We knew we were supposed to do big things. I think we were like the No. 3 recruiting class that year. Some found success earlier than others. Last year was the first year it clicked.

"Boz (Auston Bousfield) had a great year. Josh Laxer had a great year. Chris Ellis was great on Friday night. Will Jamison was awesome in the outfield. Hawtin Buchanan helped us coming out of the pen. Austin Knight stepped in at catcher. Sam Smith was effective on Sundays again. That whole class finally clicked. Then you sprinkle in the Will Allens, the Austin Andersons, the older guys. Then Christian Trent, who is a new guy. Errol Robinson. Braxton Lee. J.B. Woodman. It was like the perfect storm of players, veteran guys and new guys. It worked out perfectly.”

Indeed it did. And now it’s all about the 2015 season that is approaching.

“Our pitching is going to be very good,” Orvis said. “We’ve got a lot of arms back. The weekend rotation is back for the most part. (Juco transfer) Sean Johnson is tall and has a good cutter. He has good command. He’s an ex-hockey player, so he’s really tough out there.

“We’ll be good in the field defensively. And I think we’ll be fine offensively. The outfield is going to be good. So I think we’re ready to see just how good we can be.”

Orvis said since getting back from Omaha last June, it's been enjoyable to see how much Rebel fans appreciate the 2014 team.

“I got so many tweets from former players. I saw Evan Button’s tweets, and that made me so happy for that guy. So many people, like the coaching staff, deserved to finally get there. And to finally get it done with the team we had last year, which was a special group. That was such a tight team and a tough team. It will be exciting to come back (for visits in years to come) as the first team to get there in so long. We’ll always have that.

"We were just used to being like the normal guys in the crowd before last year. A couple of people would recognize us like in the Grove before. But this past fall everybody would recognize us. People would stop us and want to take pictures with us. It was crazy, and also very humbling. That’s one of the reasons you want to come here. We have such great fans.”

Orvis said he was glad to be able to contribute so heavily in 2014. He’s looking forward to being his best yet in 2015.

“I hadn’t done a whole lot those first two years,” he said. “They brought me in here to replace Matt Snyder, and I really hadn’t done that. Now my No. 1 goal this spring is for us to get back to Omaha and win a national championship. But I also want to prove to all those guys that didn’t pick me (in the draft) last year wrong and that I'm a good ball player.”

But he will never forget those moments in Lafayette when he and the Rebels won two of three games and advanced to Omaha. Or will he?

“That game three in Lafayette, I actually don’t remember a lot of it,” Orvis said. “I watched it on TV later. Looking back at it, it was so back and forth. We finally broke through late. Holt Perdzock got that big hit, and we put up a four spot.

“I’m glad we went one, two, three in the ninth with Josh Laxer. Because what I remember most was that I was about to throw up.”

And he would gladly love to feel just that way again this time around in June.


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