A fast start on offense is something Ole Miss first baseman Sikes Orvis wanted to help contribute to the Rebels in their Oxford Regional opener. He ended up delivering a career night in the Rebels’ 12-2 win over Jacksonville State.
Orvis drove in a career-high five runs, collecting three hits in the process, to push the No. 1 seed Rebels into a Sunday matchup with No. 2 Washington. Orvis drove in two of his runs with a double in the first inning. He then punctuated his big night at the plate with a two-run home run in the sixth inning to put the Rebels up 9-1.
Ole Miss (42-18 overall) fell behind the Gamecocks (36-27) 1-0 in the top of the first inning and then took the lead for good with the five spot in the bottom half of the inning.
Getting out to a fast start was something Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, and hitting coach Cliff Godwin, talked heavily about heading into the contest that was delayed a day by rain that hit the area Friday.
“Coach Bianco and Coach Godwin really harped on us coming out and being aggressive, trying to get the crowd into it,” said Orvis, who now has a team-best 13 home runs on the year. “The crowd was electric tonight, so the quicker they get in the game, the quicker it helps us. We needed to get that run back, and I got a good pitch to hit the double down the (right field) line. After that, I felt in a groove and felt good swinging it.”
Of the five hits the Rebels had in the first inning, none was bigger than Orvis’ double, Bianco said.
“We played very well tonight and I’m proud of the way we came out. One of the goals was to be locked into this moment and play this game,” Bianco said. “One of the keys when you play at home is you want to score early and get the crowd into it. We did that in the first inning with several good at bats. None were bigger than Sikes’ double that I think not only ignited us as a team, but also got the crowd into it.”
The largest crowd to watch an NCAA regional game — 10,394 — at Ole Miss didn’t just feed off Orvis and the offense that produced 17 hits overall, starter Chris Ellis did as well. The junior from Birmingham, Ala., went the distance on the mound, striking out eight while scattering eight hits against a JSU team that came into the contest hitting .294.
“He was tremendous and looked strong. I blame myself for the first inning because we went with a couple of changeups to the No. 3, 4 guys. Usually his changeup is good, but adrenaline-wise, they were a little hard and up,” Bianco said of Ellis early. “After that, he really locked in. It was the best fastball-curveball combo he’s had in quite some time.”
Ellis said seeing the largest crowd in Ole Miss history had his mind thinking differently than a normal weekend in the Southeastern Conference.
“When you see 10,000 people out there and beer showers going everywhere, it’s a little bit different than a regular SEC weekend for sure,” Ellis said. “I was fired up, but the defense and offense helped me out like usual. Every time I’ve given up a run, they’ve gone and put up two or three runs right after.”
Up next for the Rebels are the Huskies, who defeated Georgia Tech 7-0 in Game 1 of the regional Saturday afternoon.
“They’re obviously very good, but from all the information that we gathered and looked at all week, it’s what we expected. They’re a team that’s very well coached, but puts a lot of pressure on you,” Bianco said. “They will do some different things defensively. Their guy today (Tyler) Davis was tremendous (on the mound) and made it look really easy out there. You can see why came in second in one of the best baseball conferences in the country.”