Championship coach returns for 2nd stint with Latrobe softball

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Friday, March 13, 2020 | 8:13 PM


Bob Kovalcin resigned as Latrobe softball coach in 2012 to watch his daughter play college softball.

Now that his daughter’s college career is over, Kovalcin returned to Latrobe, and he is back coaching the Wildcats after Rick Kozusko retired at the end of the 2019 season.

Kovalcin coached Latrobe to the WPIAL titles in 2007, ’08 and ’11. The Wildcats played in the state championship game twice.

And the veteran coach is ready to get the program back on track after the 2019 season crumbled after a 7-0 start.

One top pitcher leaving the team and another getting injured was too much for the Wildcats to overcome. They finished 12-7 overall and 8-6 in Section 1-5A and dropped a 4-1 decision to Gateway in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

Kiley Myers left the team for personal reasons, and junior Jordan Tallman, who returns, saw her season shortened by an injury. Myers is pitching at Marist.

“I moved back, and I’m semi-retired,” Kovalcin said. “I had time to do it now that my daughters are done.

“My biggest job is building a bond with the players. I don’t know them, and they don’t know me. Rick coached one way, and I coach a different way. They have to be used to how I do things.”

Latrobe has only three seniors on the roster: infielder Madison Smith, catcher Matti Harr and outfielder Destiny Tack.

“I’m counting on the seniors to be leaders,” Kovalcin said. “I like what I’ve seen from them. I have 30 girls on the roster, and we have a lot of players pushing for playing time. I like that I have choices.”

Tallman will be the ace of the staff, but Kovalcin said she is not going to pitch all of the time. Sophomore Emily Schmucker will see action. Tallman is a power pitcher.

“I’ve already talked to Jordan,” Kovalcin said. “She knows if we want to be successful, she can’t pitch every game. She’s been working hard, and I like what I see from her. She’s very good.”

Others Kovalcin expects to step up as returning starters are junior shortstop Jordan Novak, sophomore third baseman Jenna Tallman and junior center fielder Sophie Schmucker. Junior outfielder Hannah Brewer and second baseman Lauren Bisignani also return.

Kovalcin said freshmen Emma Blair (catcher), Camille Dominck (first baseman) and Sydney DeGram (infielder/outfielder), juniors Shallyn Shank (outfielder), Emily Schmucker (pitcher), Grace Revitsky (first baseman) and Autumn Wright (infielder) and sophomore Bailey Watson (outfielder) are battling for playing time.

DeGram transferred from Howell High School, a perennial power in Michigan.

“We have a lot of talent, but they have to show me what they can do,” Kovalcin said. “I don’t care how good Jordan is. We must find a strong defense.

“We must replace a catcher and I want my best defensive player at second base. I have a lot of players to choose from.”

Latrobe plays in one of the toughest sections in the state with returning state champion Penn-Trafford, Franklin Regional, Albert Gallatin and Connellsville.

“It’s a very strong section,” Kovalcin said.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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