TIFTON -- The 13 year relationship between Rusty Smith and Tift County Blue Devil baseball has come to an end.

Smith announced to his team Monday night that he was resigning his position as head baseball coach. Smith was the Tift head coach for seven years and the assistant coach for six years prior to that.

Smith becomes the latest in what has been a rash of resignations from the Tift coaching staff during the past school year. The football team lost offensive coordinator Emmett Bowers, defensive coordinator David Cape and defensive backs coach Tyson Summers. Earlier this month Tift County basketball coach Tommy Blackshear shocked the community with his announcement that he was leaving Tift County High.

As a head coach Smith was 95-88 and his teams made the playoffs two times.

"I just decided that it was time for a change," Smith said Tuesday afternoon.

Smith will continue his duties as a physical education teacher at Eighth Street Middle School where he is also a football coach. He will also become the assistant athletic director at Eighth Street.

"I wasn't forced out. I spoke to coach Seward at the end of the season and I talked to a couple of board (of education) members," Smith said, "and they asked me not to quit.

"But sometimes you just know that it's time."

The Tift County baseball program has suffered some hard luck during the past few seasons. Two years ago the Blue Devils finished with an 8-6 region record only to see four teams tie for first with 9-5 records. Ironically, Tift beat the number one team Ware County Gators twice that season.

This past year the Blue Devils were on track to make a postseason appearance when Lowndes upset Coffee in the last week of the regular season. The Viking win created an eventual tie for fourth with Tift. The Blue Devils were relegated to the fifth slot because they were swept by Lee County and Lowndes split with the Lee Trojans.

Smith is a 1979 graduate of Tift County High. He played two years of college baseball at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College before getting his degree in education at Albany State.

"Maybe the change will help the program," Smith said, "and it will give me some more time to spend with my family."

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