Latrobe softball has power, ‘talent to win it all’

Wednesday, March 29, 2023 | 8:36 PM

Watching softballs fly over the fence can make some coaches jump around like a child on a trampoline.

But Latrobe’s Bob Kovalcin doesn’t overreact to home runs. He admits he would rather see base hits and sacrifice bunts, crisp execution over power.

“They’ve made a fool out of me,” Kovalcin said of this year’s Wildcats team, which hit seven home runs in its first four games. “I’m a singles, doubles kind of guys. There’s nothing wrong with a little small ball.”

The game is much more about the long ball these days, and Latrobe is chopping it up with the best of them so far.

Don’t get the coach wrong: He’ll take the homers. But he knows his team has a deeper arsenal and the potential to produce offense a variety of ways.

“It’s worked out in our favor,” Kovalcin said. “It’s been a different girl picking up the slack every game.”

Latrobe (4-0) scored 36 runs in its first four games, opening with a 9-8 victory over Norwin in eight innings as senior Josie Straigis launched a game-winning homer and hit for the cycle.

The Wildcats topped Pine-Richland, 10-3, as senior Hayden Kraynick hit two homers and drove in seven, before a 9-1 win over Mt. Pleasant saw junior Kayla Williams toss a complete game with 13 strikeouts.

Williams also delivered two homers.

Senior Sydney DeGram, who has a hit in every game and is 9 for 15 for the season, drove in three runs in an 8-3 win over Belle Vernon. Williams fanned 11 in that game.

“Everyone can hit,” said DeGram, the leadoff hitter. “We have the talent to win it all this year. That would be amazing for senior year.”

Kovalcin said DeGram’s ability to get on base has lit the wick for the Wildcats.

“She’s pounding it,” he said. “She has a few singles, and she beat out a bunt.”

Williams (3-0) and Straigis have both pitched, with Williams seeing the majority of innings so far. Coaches and players are torn on whether the pitching complements the hitting or if it’s the other way around.

“We have had someone new step up every game,” Williams said.

Said Kovalcin: “It’s both. It depends on the day and opponent.”

Latrobe has a number of travel players who have played against better competition.

A half-dozen players have committed to colleges, including DeGram, who is headed to Division I St. Bonaventure.

Straigis will play at Bloomsburg, while Kraynick pledged to Erskin (S.C.), junior Corrine Wright to Gannon, Williams to Slippery Rock and senior Brynna King to Mercyhurst.

“Ton of studs,” Kovalcin said. “We have them.”

With nine seniors and game-tested talent, this could be Latrobe’s year.

“That leadership is key,” Kovalcin said. “If we don’t win the WPIAL or get to states, it’s on me. The only thing that could hold us back is the five inches between their ears. A big part of it is mental.”

Latrobe made the WPIAL 5A quarterfinals last year but fell to North Hills in the quarterfinals, 7-0.

The Wildcats will have to get around some strong competition in their section, which features WPIAL finalists Armstrong and Penn-Trafford, along with talented Franklin Regional.

“We know it won’t be easy,” Kovalcin said. “There should be some good games.”

And more home runs.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at


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