By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Sikes Orvis arrived at Ole Miss with big shoes to fill. Now it looks like his toes are getting longer.
Rebels coach Mike Bianco told Orvis early that it would be his job to replace Matt Snyder in the middle of the lineup.
That’s no small task, since Snyder finished his career with 41 home runs, tied for second on the school’s career list.
The first time he heard that challenge he was caught off guard.
“I remember the first time I heard that was his freshman year in the regional at Texas A&M in a press conference. Somebody asked him about it, and he was like, ‘I don’t know. I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team,’” recalled Ole Miss catch Will Allen, a senior. “Coach Bianco pulled him off to the side and said, ‘No, that’s who you are. That’s what you’re going to do here. You’re going to hit home runs, drive in runs.’”
It’s been a slow ascent up the hill for Orvis, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior from Orlando. He played that 2012 season with Snyder, so opportunities were understandably fewer when he hit only one home run.
As a sophomore last season, he hit three more.
Coming into his own
With six home runs in the season’s first 25 games, Orvis has surpassed his two-year career total.
“Yeah, I heard that early in my career, and last year I had a little trouble. I think it’s starting to come back a little bit,” Orvis said.
Orvis had a big weekend in the Rebels’ sweep of Missouri, going 4-for-11 with three home runs and five RBIs.
He homered twice in Saturday’s 7-1 win and had an RBI single in the Rebels’ six-run eighth inning in Sunday’s 8-3 victory.
While Orvis is hitting .309, fifth on the team, he’s third in slugging percentage at .556.
Bianco would like to see Orvis continue to produce. Getting his RBI total of 14 closer to Allen’s team-leading 32 when be a big lift for Ole Miss.
“Obviously I’m not here to run around in the outfield and steal bases,” Orvis said. “I’m here to drive balls in the gap, hit it over the fence and hit people in. That’s what Snyder did. That’s definitely what I want to try to do.”
Bianco says he’s seen different players develop at different times over their careers, and he’s confident Orvis will remain on track.
“He’s come a long way since his freshman year, but yeah, this is the guy we knew he could be and expected him to be,” Bianco said. “Sometimes it takes a year or two, sometimes it’s a semester. That maturation period is different for all players.”