Smith steps down after 11 years with Elizabethtown

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ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. -- Cliff Smith, the Elizabethtown College baseball program's second all-time winningest coach with 254 victories, announced Friday that he is stepping down after 11 seasons to pursue a new professional opportunity.

Smith, who also held the role of assistant athletic director, ended his 11th season as head coach in style, capturing the program's first Landmark Conference championship and taking the Blue Jays back to the NCAA Championship tournament for the first time since 2009. Smith also guided the Blue Jays to MAC Commonwealth championships in 2007 and 2009.

"I have really enjoyed my time at Elizabethtown and will miss interacting with our players, coaches and staff," said Smith. "I am grateful to the College and the players in our program who have taught me so much over the last 11 years. At the same time, I am excited to start a new chapter in my life, that will allow me to spend more time at home with my wife and sons."

Anchored by an offense that ranked 57th in Division III nationally in hits (447) and 71st in runs (288), along with a pitching staff that allowed the 13th fewest walks per nine innings (2.51), Smith's Blue Jays finished with a 28-17 record in 2017 --Elizabethtown's highest win total since 2009 and tied for the fourth winningest season in the program's 85 seasons of play.

E-town entered the Landmark Championship tournament as the No. 3 seed, but quickly secured its spot in the championship with wins over No. 2 Susquehanna and No. 1 Catholic on the opening day of play. The Blue Jays again toppled Susquehanna, 6-2, in a winner-take-all game to win the Landmark title and earn the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Championships.

The Blue Jays were sent to nearby York for the Mid-Atlantic Regional, going 1-2 with a win over Maritime. Elizabethtown went 4-6 in three NCAA Championships appearances under Smith with at least one victory in all three trips.

Smith, the ninth head coach in team history, was in his first season in the dugout when the Blue Jays recorded their 1,000th all-time victory, a MAC Commonwealth Conference title and an NCAA Division III Championship tournament appearance in 2007. E-town returned to the national tournament after winning the conference title in 2009.

Smith surpassed Ira R. Herr, the founding father of Elizabethtown College Athletics, for third on the program's all-time coaching wins list in 2015 and moved into second ahead of Hall of Fame coach John Gergic early in 2017.

Smith earned his 100th career victory in just his 158th game with a 9-3 win at Arcadia on May 1, 2010, becoming the fastest coach to 100 wins in program history. Elizabethtown enjoyed eight 20-win seasons and seven winning campaigns with Smith at the helm.

Prior to joining the Blue and Gray, Smith was an assistant coach at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and an educational technician in the special education department at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, Maine.

Smith served as pitching coach and his hurlers posted a 3.30 ERA as Bowdoin won a school record 28 games (28-10) and advanced to the NCAA Division III Championship tournament in 2006.

Smith, a 2001 Brandeis University alum, embarked on a five-year professional playing career from 2001-05. The right-handed pitcher signed a free agent contract with the now-Los Angeles Angels and advanced as high as Double A Arkansas in their organizational ladder in 2003 and 2004.

Born in Portland, Maine, Smith was a lifelong New Englander before gaining exposure to Lancaster County as an inaugural member of the independent Atlantic League's Lancaster Barnstormers in 2005. Smith capped his playing career in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization at Single A Hickory (N.C.) later that season.

Elizabethtown is in the process of beginning a national search for Smith's replacement.