KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- On Senior Day at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, starting pitcher Bret Marks dealt 7.0 scoreless innings in the season finale against Mississippi State, while a ninth-inning rally helped the Tennessee Volunteers to a postseason-clinching 3-2 win and a spot in the SEC Tournament for the second straight season.
With a Georgia (26-28, 10-19 SEC) loss to Arkansas (32-30, 17-12 SEC) on Saturday afternoon, Tennessee (24-25, 11-18 SEC) clinched a postseason bid to the SEC Tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2004-05, after not appearing in the conference tournament from 2008-13. The Volunteers' seed in the Tournament is to be determined upon conclusion of Alabama's (29-26, 11-18 SEC) Saturday game against Vanderbilt (39-16, 20-9 SEC).
The Vols completed their first-ever series sweep over Mississippi State and now own a three-game win streak against the Bulldogs for the first time since March 24, 1969 - May 13, 1970.
In his first start since April 25 vs. South Carolina, Tennessee senior Bret Marks received the starting nod and threw 7.0 innings plus one batter in the eighth. He allowed just one run on seven hits while striking out five in his final career appearance on Rocky Top.
Tennessee's bats struggled against Mississippi State's starter Austin Sexton, as the squad scattered just four hits over his 6.1 scoreless innings on the mound. The Vols went on to record seven total hits in the contest, led by right fielder Jordan Rodgers (2-for-3, 2B), shortstop A.J. Simcox (2-for-4), designated hitter Andrew Lee (1-for-3, RBI) and third baseman Jared Pruett (1-for-3).
The Vols created opportunities early, but stranded seven runners on base in the series finale. With the score tied at 0-0 in the seventh, designated hitter Andrew Lee took a big at-bat for the Vols and reached after being hit by a pitch. Rodgers then roped a single to left field to move Lee to third, but a line drive out to third doubled Lee off third and ended the frame for UT.
In the top of the eighth, Mississippi State first baseman Wes Rea hit a solo home run to left field and put the Bulldogs on the board with the first run of the game.
Andrew Lee, who began the game as Tennessee's designated hitter, then went to the mound in relief of Marks. The Bulldogs pushed one insurance run across two singles into the left field corner, making it a 2-0 ballgame, before Lee struck out two batters to end the inning.
The top half of the order went to bat for the Vols' final chance in the ninth, as Pruett reached on a leadoff walk. Bulldog lefty Ross Mitchell was called upon to face left fielder Christin Stewart, who was hit by a pitch. With runners on and no outs, Simcox was ruled safe on a bunt single to first base to load the bases for Lee. Lee then ripped an RBI-single through the right side to score two runs for the Vols to tie the game, 2-2.
In the next at-bat, Jordan Rodgers walked to load the bases with no outs for center fielder Chris Hall. Hall stepped up and delivered a walkoff RBI-single through the middle for the Vols.