Rob Smith will enter his sixth season at Creighton and third as associate head coach in 2012. Smith works as the Bluejay pitching coach and recruiting coordinator.
In his first five seasons with the Bluejays, he has coached five All-Americans, two freshman All-Americans, one MVC Pitcher of the Year, two MVC Newcomers of the Year and had five pitchers offered professional contracts, most recently Jonas Dufek in 2011. His staffs have twice led the MVC in pitching (2008, 2009) while ranking in the top 20 nationally in lowest ERA over the same five years. In all, during his 10 year stint as a Division I pitching coach, Smith has developed 11 pitchers who have been drafted or offered professional contracts.
Over the last five years, the Creighton pitching staff has a combined ERA of 3.97 which ranks 20th in the country. In his first three seasons as pitching coach, Smith’s pitching staff put together one of the best streaks in school history. During that three-year span, the Jays pitchers combined ERA ranked them seventh in the country from 2007-2009. They placed inside the top 15 in pitching nationally for three consecutive seasons, joining North Carolina and Virginia as the only schools to do so.
Smith’s 2011 staff again ranked among the top in the Valley, finishing with a combined 3.36 ERA, third best in the league. Led by All-American Jonas Dufek’s 128 strikeouts, Creighton finished second in the MVC with 436 strikeouts. Dufek led the league with a 2.08 ERA, 12 wins and 112.2 innings of work, topping the Valley in each of those categories.
Joining Dufek to form a 1-2 punch as Friday and Saturday starts, southpaw Ty Blach finished fifth in the league with a 2.65 ERA, picking up 10 wins and striking out 100. Creighton finished as one of just three teams in the nation with two pitchers with at least 10 wins and 100 strikeouts (joining Virginia and Georgia Tech).
It also marked the second time in his first five seasons with the Bluejays that Smith has relied on the bullpen to log big numbers. Led by Kurt Spomer’s 13 saves, second most in a single season in Creighton history, the Bluejays led the MVC with 21 saves on the season. Spomer, Reese McGraw and Mark Winkelman each made 35 appearances on the year, setting a new program record for appearances in a single-season.
Three pitchers (Blach, Dufek and Spomer) were honored with MVC accolades and Dufek was named the MVC Tournament Most Valuable Player. Dufek was drafted by the Houston Astros in the ninth round and played for the Tri-City ValleyCats in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League last summer.
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, was good enough 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’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 also served as a volunteer assistant coach at Purdue in 1999, where he worked with pitchers, catchers and recruiting.
He and his wife, RaeAnna, have three daughters (Sierra, Serena, Isabelle) and one son (Tyson).