Hempfield’s Kalp earns national honor, expects to return next season

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Friday, July 6, 2018 | 4:03 PM


Longtime Hempfield softball coach Bob Kalp told those in attendance at the team's season-ending banquet he plans to come back to coach a 23rd season.

He added a slight disclaimer, however, when asked about that pending return.

“If all goes well,” said Kalp, 73, who Thursday was named FloSoftball's National Coach of the Year after guiding Hempfield to a fourth straight WPIAL title and third consecutive PIAA championship in the state's largest classification.

Kalp always has made the program a group effort, and that won't change going forward. He has a nine-member coaching staff that includes 70-something assistants and dear friends Ray Melo (78) and Dick Albright (71). The way it sounds, it's all or nothing for the men regarding a return next spring.

The trio has relied on one another for more than two decades, each providing detail-oriented input to keep the program chugging along.

Hempfield is a softball dynasty, and Kalp and his assistants have made sure if this is the twilight of their tenure together, the program stayed on top.

“With three of us in our 70s, things could change at any time,” Kalp said. “If one of us can't coach, that will be it for all three.

“You young guys don't realize how tough it is to do just simple things when you get older.”

Not that Kalp and Co. have shown any weakness. Hemp­field was thought to be slammed by graduation losses but recovered without so much as a flinch, going 24-3 and showing late-inning heroics in yet another title-chasing season.

The Spartans won four one-run games, including three in extra innings, in the playoffs. They edged past Latrobe in 10 innings, 2-1, to win the WPIAL championship, then topped Parkland, 4-3, in eight innings for state glory. The Spartans became the first PIAA team to win three straight softball titles.

And Kalp still was the ringleader, with his scrupulous attention to detail, unrelenting preparation and do-it-until-you-get-it-right mentality.

The retired chemistry teacher made it work with a different mix of personalities and talent and reached 400 career wins in the process.

Kalp is 401-98-1 in 22 seasons in charge.

He has been a part of 15 section titles, six WPIAL titles and four state crowns.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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