Rob Smith has guided the Ohio baseball team to an unprecedented turnaround in his third season as head coach of the Bobcats in 2015.
Under Smith’s watch, the Bobcats have 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 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.
Ohio boasted one of the league's top offensive units as well as well as one of its best pitching staffs entering the 2015 MAC Championship, ranking third in the league in team batting average (.283) and fourth in team earned run average (4.28).
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 sophomore Mitch Longo garnered MAC Player of the Year honors while Cozart took home MAC Pitcher of the Year laurels under Smith’s guidance.
Longo finished the regular season leading the league in hits and RBI while ranking second in batting average and total bases. He ranked among the top 50 toughest hitters in the country to strike out.
Cozart finished the regular season among the top 15 in the nation in ERA and set the school’s single-season record for saves. He became Ohio's second MAC Championship MVP, joining Bart Leahy, who earned the distinction in 1997. 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 in the MAC Championship Game marked the first he gave up in 25 straight innings of work.
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 2014 campaign saw the development of starting pitchers Jake Rudnicki and Jake 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, former Bobcat reliever Brett 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 have 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).
Doug Schreiber, Purdue University - Head Coach "Rob Smith is an outstanding coach that will bring great energy and initiative to the Ohio University baseball program. Rob has played a major role in two successful college programs in Purdue and Creighton over the past eleven years and will continue to build upon the great tradition and foundation that has been established at Ohio."
Rick Heller, Indiana State - Head Coach "Rob is just an outstanding coach and he was a big part of Creighton's success over the past six years. I know myself and our staff at Indiana State have a lot of respect for him. He is a great person, he has a great family and he is a great teacher. Rob is someone who will really work hard and knows what it takes to be successful. Ohio University has made a great selection with their next head coach."
John Savage, UCLA - Head Coach On the Creighton program following the Los Angeles Regional on June 3, 2012 "This is the first time I've personally played them and UCLA has played them in a long time, and I just can't say enough about Creighton. First class. I've seen a lot of programs and how they go about things, from stretching to batting practice to infield and outfield to game, and I'm not just making this up. This is genuine. This is a first-class coaching staff. To be where they were and to run through the Missouri Valley to win the tournament and to play for a regional championship tells you that they never ever gave up on each other, and I'm just so impressed. I was going to say that win or lose. They made a huge impression on our program and really made our program better this weekend."
Pat Venditte, Former Creighton All-America Pitcher "I am so happy for Coach Smith. Nobody knows how hard he works and there is nobody, who wants it more than him. I met Coach Smith during my junior year while I was at Creighton and he just had a major impact on my career. He is very good when it comes to teaching to proper techniques. The way he goes about his daily routine makes it very easy to respect him."
Ty Blach, Former Creighton pitcher and Fifth Round Selection by the San Francisco Giants "Coach Smith was great to work with everyday. The way he interacted with the players was very professional. He is a real players coach and he pushed us to levels we didn't know we could get to."