For the eighth year, University of West Georgia will have Jeff Smith on the bench for the Wolves. Smith is the recruiting coordinator and pitching coach for UWG, and since his arrival as pitching coach, the Wolves’ team Earned Run Average has dropped significantly each year.
Coach Smith took over a pitching staff with a 9.59 ERA. In 2015 the Wolves pitching staff posted a team ERA of 3.10, ranked 9th in NCAA Division II team ERA. Smith has been influential in the development of UWG Career strikeout leader Jamie Sexton and Tyler Gunnin, who holds the UWG single season saves record. During his time overseeing the pitching staff UWG has placed five pitchers on the All-Gulf South Conference Team while Jamie Sexton (2013), Matthew Norton (2015, 2016) made the All-Region teams. Sexton was named All-American in 2013.
The Wolves had a pair of shortstops move on to professional baseball in back-to-back years as in 2016, shortstop Caleb Lopes was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 33rd round of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. In 2017, shortstop Artemis Kadkhodaian signed with the Los Angeles Angels.
In 2017 Drew Eady was named to the Rawlings Gold Glove Team for the second year in a row. This makes the third time in three years that a UWG player was awarded the Rawlings Gold Glove. In Smith’s eight years at UWG there’s been 20 players named to the All Gulf South Conference teams and 10 players receiving recognition for All Gulf South Conference Academic awards.
The Wolves were poised for more improvement in the 2016 season, and that they did, posting the third best record in school history with a 42-16 mark. Additionally, the Wolves reached the NCAA Regional for the first time since 1998, traveling to Tampa, Fla. as the sixth seed in the tournament. After falling to eventual National Champion Nova Southeastern in the opening round, the Wolves would rattle off three straight wins defeating Claflin, top-seed and defending champion Tampa, and then finally a win over GSC rival West Florida. After the win over UWF, the Wolves had to come back to take on Delta State, and ran out of gas, falling to the Statesmen and ending the best season in more than a decade at West Georgia.
Five Wolves were named to the All-GSC team in the 2015 season with Caleb Lopes, Garrett Hayes, and Matthew Norton each earning All-Region honors. Senior right fielder Tyler Hutch was named to the Rawlings Gold Glove Team as well. Coach Smith came to West Georgia following five years on the staff of former Gulf South Conference rival, the University of Montevallo. While at Montevallo Smith help lead the Falcons to two South Central Regional tournaments in 2006 and 2007. In 2006 UM captured the South Central Region and finish third in the NCAA Division II World Series. During his time at Montevallo the Flacons had 17 players named to All Gulf South Conference Honors and 8 named to the All GSC Academic teams. In 2006 Smith was recognized by the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association as the Alabama Assistant Coach of the Year. Prior to his time at Montevallo, Smith had a successful six year run as head coach at Volunteer (Tenn.) State Community College. In 2000 his team won 48 games and was ranked as high as #1 in the Nation in NJCAA. Smith has one former player in Major League Baseball in pitcher Steve Delabar who played with the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds. Delabar made the American League All-Star team in 2013 as a member of the Blue Jays.
Coach Smith also was the head coach at Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens, Tennessee for three years. He led the NAIA program to two Tennessee Valley Athletic Conference Tournament Championships and Regional berths.
Smith played collegiately at the University of Louisville and graduated from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee with a B.S. in Physical Education. Coach Smith and his wife Nancy have three daughters Abbie (UWG ’17), Sarah Katherine and Lydia and they live in Carrollton, GA.