HOOVER, Ala. – Philip Clarke hit a walk-off single to beat Ole Miss 11-10 and carry Vanderbilt to win its first SEC Tournament title since 2007 on Sunday.
The Commodores rallied from deficits of 7-0 in the second inning and 9- 1 in the third inning. In the ninth with the game tied at 10, they drew three straight walks to load the bases with two outs.
Clarke, a former Christ Presbyterian Academy standout, hit the first pitch he saw from newly installed reliever Ryan Olenek to score Austin Martin for the game winner. Clarke said, "I didn't have much info on (Olenek), so I was just looking for a pitch to hit," Clarke said. "I got one and got a good swing on it."
0) became the first team to sweep the SEC regular-season and tournament titles since it pulled off the same feat in 2007. It was the Commodores 'third overall SEC Tournament championship, including 1980. They have won twenty-two of their past 23 games. failed to finish off at Cinderella run and capture a second straight SEC Tournament title.
Vanderbilt, ranked no. 2 in the USA TODAY Top 25 Coaches Poll, will now turn to Monday's NCAA Tournament selection show (11 am, ESPNU), where it is projected to be a national seed.
Tyler Brown (3-1) earned the win with three innings of relief. Clarke had three hits, and Harrison Ray had three doubles to lead Vanderbilt in the comeback.
"There was certainly a lot to that game," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. "I'll have to go back through it several times just to kind of create those memories again."
Vanderbilt's J.J. Bleday, the SEC Player of the Year, was named tournament MVP. He went 5-for-5 in the tournament opener and hit his 26th home run, which leads the nation, in the semi-final win over LSU. Pat DeMarco was named to the all-tournament team.
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Vanderbilt's rally took off in the fourth inning, when it scored five runs and cut Ole Miss' lead from 9-3 to 9-8. Three singles, two walk and sacrifice planes. Then DeMarco waited patiently for a hanging off-speed pitch that she drilled 345 feet over the left-field wall for a three-run home run.
Trailing 10-8 in the fifth, Ray hit and lead-off double and scored on Julian Infante's single. In the sixth, Vanderbilt completed the comeback with Ray's third double of the game, which scored Stephen Scott to tie it to 10.
"Packing it and heading to the NCAAs was never a thought for anybody," Ray said. "We wanted to win this game. We were just going to chip away, stay together and get back in it."
Disastrous first inning dug deep hole
Vanderbilt fell way behind early when senior pitcher Patrick Raby, the program's all-time win leader, had the shortest and worst outing of his career. He lasted only two-thirds of an inning and gift way to a 6-0 first-inning deficit.
In the first, Raby walked four batters, bounced a wild pitch well of record and gift up a pair of RBI singles. He tossed 43 pitches, including 22 balls and a few strikes that were tagged with hard swings.
"(Raby) was spraying it," Ole Miss left fielder Thomas Dillard said. "That's uncharacteristic for a great pitcher like him."
Raby allowed six runs (two earned) on two hits and four walks. Reliever Zach King finished the first inning and then gave up three more runs combined in the second and third innings, putting Ole Miss ahead 9-1.
Adam Sparks at asparks @ tennessean. com and on Twitter @AdamSparks