Rob Smith, Ohio Bobcats

Ohio Bobcats

Rob Smith enters his sixth season as the head coach of the Ohio Bobcats baseball program in 2018.

The Ohio 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. The Ohio Bobcats earned third third MAC tournament title (1997, 2015, ’17) with the victory. 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.

 

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 Ohio Bobcats’ 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.

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.

Ohio followed up its 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.

Smith was named the head baseball coach of the Ohio Bobcats 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.

Smith came to Creighton after a successful five-year stint at Purdue University, beginning in the fall of 2001. He 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.

Smith also 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.

About the author, Bill

Bill Ballew has been involved with collegiate and professional baseball since 1983. He has been the Atlanta correspondent for Baseball America since 1991 and has served as the editorial content manager for Baseball The Magazine for more than five years. He is a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).