Rob Smith enters his sixth season as the head coach of the Ohio baseball program in 2018. The Bobcats have won two Mid-American Conference tournament titles and have made two NCAA Championship appearances over the the last three years. Ohio had made just two NCAA tournament appearance in the 43 seasons prior to the 2015 campaign.
Smith guided Ohio back to another league tournament title and appearance on the national postseason stage in 2017. The Bobcats won seven of their final 10 regular season games and tallied 13 conference victories -- including five MAC series wins en route to capturing the No. 5 seed in the league tournament.
No. 5-seeded Ohio capped an improbable league postseason run by defeating No. 3-seeded Eastern Michigan, 7-4, to clinch the 2017 MAC Championship title on May 28 at Sprenger Stadium in Avon, Ohio. Ohio earned its third MAC tournament title (1997, 2015, '17) with the victory. The Bobcats opened 2017 MAC Championship play by beating No. 4-seeded Ball State, 4-3, on May 24. Ohio then advanced to the winner's bracket final thanks to a late-night 5-3 win over No. 1-seeded Kent State the following day. The Bobcats eliminated the Golden Flashes with a 7-2 victory on (May 27, marking the fourth time in five tries Ohio emerged victorious over MAC regular season champion Kent State in 2017. After missing the national postseason tournament 17 years in a row, Ohio punched its second NCAA Regional ticket in the last three years as the MAC's automatic bid with the victory over Eastern Michigan, advancing to the 2017 NCAA Championship Lexington Regional. The No. 4 regionally-seeded Bobcats fell to No. 1 regionally-seeded Kentucky, 6-4, on June 4, then dropped an 11-2 decision to No. 2 regionally-seeded Indiana the following day.
The Bobcats placed five players on the 2017 All-MAC Championship Team -- senior outfielder Spencer Ibarra, senior infielder Ty Black, senior catcher Anthony Mrosla, redshirt junior designated hitter/right-handed pitcher Michael Klein and senior right-handed starting pitcher Tom Colletti. Ibarra garnered Most Valuable Player distinction, joining outfielder Bart Leahy (1997) and right-handed pitcher Logan Cozart (2015) as the only players in Ohio's history to earn such honors.
Ibarra was named to the 2017 ABCA/Rawlings NCAA Division I Mideast All-Region Second Team, earning honors for the first time in his career and becoming the first Bobcat to receive such distinction since Cozart and sophomore outfielder Mitch Longo garnered second team recognition in 2015.
Ibarra was joined on the All-MAC First Team by Klein and redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Jake Roehn and was also joined on the MAC All-Defensive Team by sophomore infielder Rudy Rott and senior infielder Tyler Finkler. Finkler was named MAC Defensive Player of the Year for his efforts at shortstop in 2017, becoming the first Bobcat to earn such honors. Ohio finished 2017 ranked 12th in the nation with a .980 fielding percentage. Senior infielder Connor Callery reeled in Second Team All-MAC honors.
Under the watchful eye of Smith, Ohio established itself as one of the top pitching staffs in the MAC in 2017. The Bobcats owned a 4.42 team ERA, which ranked second-best in the league. Ohio also ranked second in walks allowed per nine innings (4.12), third in strikeouts per nine innings (8.2) and fourth in hits allowed per nine innings (9.12). The Broobcats' pitching staff logged a program-record 483 strikeouts, breaking the previous mark of 420 set in 2003. Ohio's pitching staff recorded five shutout victories in 2017 after posting just one in 52 games in '16. Coming out of the bullpen as the team's closer, Roehn tallied a program record 15 saves in 2017. His career saves total stands at 22 entering the 2018 season, which is tied with Chad Reed (1989-92) for the most in program history. He was named to both the preseason and midseason watch lists for the 13th annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award in 2017.
The Bobcats also excelled in the classroom in 2017. Ohio placed seven student-athletes on the 2017 Academic All-MAC Team -- redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Cory Blessing, junior outfielder/infielder Tony Giannini, Ibarra, redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Nick Kamrada, Klein, senior left-handed pitcher Matt Mikolajczak and Rott. Ibarra, Mikolajczak, Klein and Rott all were also named MAC Distinguished Scholar Athletes for the first times in their careers.
Smith engineered an unprecedented turnaround in his third season as head coach of the Bobcats in 2015. Under his watch, the Bobcats posted an NCAA-best 25-win improvement en route to capturing the 2015 Mid-American Conference Championship -- Ohio's first league title since 1997. Ohio's 36 wins in 2015 rank as the second-most in a single season in school history.
The Bobcats earned the MAC's automatic bid to the national postseason and a No. 4 seed at the 2015 NCAA Championship Champaign Regional, marking Ohio's first appearance on the national postseason stage since 1997.
Smith's third regular season in the Ohio dugout was highlighted by a 10-7 win at Kentucky -- the Bobcats' first over a team out of the Southeastern Conference since recording a 15-4 win at Kentucky in 1997. The Bobcats carried their early season success over into the 2015 MAC slate, winning five of nine series. Ohio took a weekend series at Kent State, marking the Bobcats' first series win over the Golden Flashes since 1998.
No. 3-seeded Ohio rolled through the 2015 MAC Championship, putting together a perfect 4-0 run that culminated in a 6-2 win over No. 5-seeded Ball State in the title game. The Bobcats' bats finished the tournament with a collective eight home runs while the pitching staff, using just four pitchers, allowed just five runs -- only three of which were earned -- on 14 hits and 15 walks over 38 innings of work -- for a 0.71 ERA.
The Bobcats were rewarded for the efforts both on the mound and at the plate, as Longo garnered MAC Player of the Year honors while Cozart took home MAC Pitcher of the Year laurels under Smith's guidance. The duo was also named to the 2015 ABCA/Rawlings NCAA Division I Mideast All-Region Second Team.
Longo joined Marc Krauss (2009) as the only Bobcats to receive MAC Player of the Year honors in 2015. The First Team All-MAC pick led the MAC with 86 hits (tied for the seventh-most in a single season in school history) and 120 total bases while ranking second with 49 RBI and third with a team-best .357 batting average.
In conference play, Longo batted a team-best .365 with a team-best .548 slugging percentage and .413 on-base percentage. He led the squad with 42 hits in conference play -- including nine doubles and a team-high four home runs -- to go along with a team-high 25 RBI and 26 runs scored.
Longo earned a spot as the designated hitter of the All-Champaign Regional Team. He became the first Bobcat to earn All-NCAA Regional Team recognition since Rick Czajkowski was named to the 1991 All-NCAA East Regional Team in Gainesville, Fla. He hit .333 with three hits -- including a double -- to go along with two RBI and a run scored.
Cozart, a Baseball America 2015 Third Team All-American and 2015 Gregg Olson Award Finalist, ranked 12th in the country with a MAC-best 1.52 ERA and led the Bobcats' pitching staff with 80 strikeouts over 71.0 innings pitched and a school-record 31 appearances, which ranked 39th in the country. Cozart also led the 'Cats with a .154 batting average against. He ranked 21st in the country with a then-single-season school record 13 saves, which surpassed the nine nailed down by Reed in 1992 and is tied for the 13th-most in a single season in conference history. He tied for the team lead with seven pitching victories. Cozart's 10.14 strikeouts per nine innings ranked 42nd in the nation while his 4.82 hits allowed per nine inning was good for second in the country. His 0.89 WHIP ranked 11th in the nation.
Cozart closed conference play with a 5-0 record, six saves and 1.29 ERA in 12 appearances and 28.0 innings pitched. He posted 30 strikeouts while allowing only four earned runs on 12 hits and eight walks. Cozart has a streak of 14 straight scoreless innings pitched going, fanning 15 while allowing just two hits and six walks. He went 1-0 with four saves during the stretch.
Cozart earned MAC Championship Most Valuable Player laurels, joining Bart Leahy as the only Bobcats to earn such distinction. He went 1-0 with a save, fanning seven while giving up one unearned run on four hits and five walks over two appearances and 9.2 innings of work. The run he allowed in the eighth inning in the MAC Championship Game marked the first he gave up in 25 straight innings of work.
Cozart was selected by the Colorado Rockies with 617th pick in the 21st round of the 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft. He became the first Bobcat to be drafted since right-handed pitcher Brett Barber was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 37th round of the 2013 draft as the 1,105th overall selection.
Senior Jake Madsen capped off his spectacular Ohio career by becoming the Bobcats' all-time hits leader and putting himself into the top 10 of the MAC's career base knocks list. He earned First Team All-MAC honors for the first time in his career as well as All-MAC Defensive Team recognition under Smith's watch. He was named to the All-MAC Championship Team after he went .333 for the tournament with five hits -- including a double and a home run -- to go along with nine RBI and three runs scored.
Madsen was joined on the All-MAC Defensive Team by junior Manny De Jesus, a transfer from Wabash Valley College who made an immediate impact for the Bobcats with both his bat and his glove.
The Bobcats followed up their magical 2015 campaign by winning 23 games in '16. Infielder Rudy Rott was named to the 2016 Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-American Team as a first baseman, as selected by Collegiate Baseball newspaper. Rott became the fourth Bobcat to earn such distinction, joining Adam Fox (2001), Ben Crabtree (2002) and Krauss. Longo and redshirt senior catcher Cody Gaertner both earned Second Team All-MAC honors while Gaertner and De Jesus earned spots on the 2016 All-MAC Defensive Team.
The Cleveland Indians selected Longo with the 422nd overall pick in the 14th round of the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft. Longo finished his Ohio baseball career with a .355 batting average, 209 hits, 34 doubles, two triples, 12 home runs, 87 RBIs, 103 runs scored, 60 walks and 29 stolen bases over three seasons and 142 starts for the Bobcats. He led the team with a .360 batting average, a .438 on-base percentage, 77 hits, 14 doubles and 12 stolen bases in 2016. He also ranked second in runs scored (36), walks (25), slugging percentage (.467) and total bases (100). Longo recorded a team-high 24 multi-hit games in 2016 -- including seven with at least three hits, which tied De Jesus for the team lead.
The 2014 campaign saw the development of starting pitchers Jake Rudnicki and Roehn, as well as Miller and Sitz. Under the watch of Smith, Jake Madsen was named to the 2014 All-MAC Second Team and Tyler Wells was named to the 2014 Academic All-MAC team. Longo emerged as a star as a freshman, ranking near the top of the squad in several offensive categories before his season was cut short due to injury.
In his first season on the bench in Athens in 2013, Smith implemented his defensive strategies, which led to 23 fewer errors from the previous season. Smith also oversaw the development of Miller and Sitz, both of whom developed into strong contributors on the Bobcats' pitching staff.
In addition, Barber posted a strong season under Smith's leadership, making 30 appearances and limiting opponents to a batting average of .266. Barber was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 37th round of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft.
Following the 2013 campaign, six Ohio players received Academic All-MAC Honorable Mention.
Smith was named the head baseball coach at Ohio on June 11, 2012. He is the ninth head coach in program history. He came to Athens following six years at Creighton, where he served as the Associate Head Coach/Recruiting Coordinator.
During his time in Omaha, Smith helped the Bluejays to a record of 213-133, three NCAA Championship Regional appearances and three Missouri Valley Conference titles (2007, 2011 and 2012). Creighton also won four NCAA tournament games with Smith on the staff, including two games in 2012, defeating San Diego and New Mexico.
In his first five seasons with the Bluejays, Smith coached five All-Americans, two freshmen All-Americans, one MVC Pitcher of the Year, two MVC Newcomers of the Year and had five pitchers offered professional contracts. In 2012, Creighton junior Ty Blach was selected in the fifth round by the San Francisco Giants. Blach's selection by the Giants was the highest a Creighton player had been drafted since 1999.
Smith's staffs twice led the MVC in pitching (2008, `09) while ranking in the top 20 nationally in lowest ERA over his first five years. At the conclusion of the 2010 season, Blach became the second Freshman All-America selection during Smith's four years with Creighton. Blach finished with a 3.11 ERA which, good for third best in the league.
During the 2009 season, Creighton finished 13th in the nation in pitching while ranking first in the MVC. Smith also tutored freshman Brandon Koenigstein, who threw just the fourth no-hitter in Creighton history, and the first complete-game no-no since 1971. The Creighton staff also led the league in fewest hits allowed per nine innings and fewest walks allowed per nine innings.
In 2008, Creighton finished 14th in the nation in ERA for the second consecutive year, while finishing first in the MVC and second in the country for shutouts (8). The staff, led by All-American and 20th round draft pick Pat Venditte, also finished 16th in the nation for walks allowed per nine innings. Individually the Bluejays boasted the best pitcher in the MVC in terms of ERA as junior Mike Nihsen led the league in 2008 with a 2.30 mark in 70.1 innings. In addition, weekend starter Jeremy Hauer was named the MVC Newcomer of the Year as he anchored the Friday night starting spot for the Jays. At the conclusion of the 2008 season, Smith was named the Collegiate Baseball Teaching Professional of the Year.
In his first season as pitching coach in 2007 Smith made an immediate impact as the staff picked up 21 saves in relief to set a school record. Relievers Venditte, Andy Masten, and starter Ben Mancuso earned All-America honors following the season. The country's only known switch-pitcher, Venditte recorded a stretch of 43.2 scoreless innings, was named the MVP of the MVC Tournament, and set a school record for lowest ERA in a season. Mancuso had team-best 10 victories in 2007 and he recorded seven scoreless outings in 13 appearances on his way to being named MVC Pitcher of the Year. Masten was named the league's Newcomer of the Year after finishing with 16 saves to tie for second-most in the country. His 16 saves also set Creighton's school record and ranked third-most in MVC history for a season. Smith also instructed freshman right-hander Casey Schmidt, who finished 6-1 and earned Freshman All-American accolades. Friday starter Marc Lewis was selected in the 20th round of the Major League draft after finishing with an 8-3 record. Lewis was joined by Venditte, Mancuso and Masten to give Creighton four pitchers on the All-MVC first team. Smith came to Creighton after a successful five-year stint at Purdue University.
Smith arrived at Purdue in the fall of 2001 and spent five seasons training the Boilermaker pitching staff. In his last season in West Lafayette, Purdue had its most wins since 2001 (31) and three pitchers were named all-conference. In addition, he helped lead Purdue to its third straight Big Ten Tournament berth which marked the first time in program history that had been accomplished. Three members of his pitching staff were drafted, tying a school-record.
In 2002, hurler Chadd Blasko was picked in the supplemental first round, 36th overall, making him Purdue's highest draftee since 1993. Purdue's staff ERA dropped by more than 1.7 runs per game in Smith's five seasons, going from 5.95 in 2002 all the way down to 4.23 in 2006.
The 2006 team ERA was Purdue's fourth-best staff mark since the introduction of aluminum bats in 1974. Purdue's 2005 league ERA of 3.29 was more than one full run better than any other staff in the Big Ten. Under his guidance, the 2005 and 2006 Boilermaker staffs each had strikeout to walk ratios of 2-to-1, or better, for just the third and fourth times since 1974.
While working at Purdue, Smith spent two seasons as manager and general manager of the Wisconsin Woodchucks of the Northwoods League. In 2001 he guided the team to its first league championship, while also setting a franchise record with 37 wins. His teams also set club records for ERA both seasons. While in Wausau, Smith coached Creighton standouts Tom Oldham and Steve Grasley with the Woodchucks.
Smith also served as a volunteer assistant coach at Purdue in 1999, where he worked with pitchers, catchers and recruiting.
Smith's playing career started at Vincennes University in 1991 and finished at Indiana Southeast in 1994. He earned his college degree at Indiana University in 1998.
Smith and his wife, RaeAnna, have three daughters (Sierra, Serena, Isabelle) and one son (Tyson).