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Retired Kovalcin won 3 WPIAL titles as Latrobe softball coach

| Tuesday, July 3, 2012, 8:47 p.m.
ERIC FELACK
Latrobe manager Bob Kovalcin awards a gold medal to pitcher Alexa Bryson, who is holding the trophy after winning the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game. Kovalcin announced his retirement in June. (ERIC FELACK, TRIBUNE REVIEW)

Bob Kovalcin got a lot of enjoyment from coaching members of the Latrobe softball team.

Apparently, the feeling was mutual.

After the Wildcats defeated Central York, 1-0, in 14 innings to advance to the 2008 PIAA Class AAAA championship game, Kovalcin dressed in women's clothing and walked into a Hoss's Steakhouse, all for his girls.

“Sometimes you make a little bet with them and it was a win-win situation for me,” Kovalcin said. “I would have done it either way, but the point was that they won the bet so yes I dressed up like a girl and they had a good time.”

It was moments like that Kovalcin will remember most about his stellar nine-year run with the Wildcats after he announced his retirement earlier this month.

Kovalcin will be moving to North Carolina to watch his daughter, Molly, play her final year of softball at Catawba College.

“I told (the team) at the banquet before I told the administration, and that was the day before,” Kovalcin said. “I love these girls to death, but I love my own girls just a little bit more. That's the hardest thing to walk away from because they are all fantastic young ladies.

“I just want to see (Molly) play. That's something I've wanted to do, and we had talked about it through her years in college. I'm going to make it happen.”

Kovalcin led Latrobe to WPIAL titles in 2007, '08 and '11 in addition to PIAA runner-up finishes in 2007 and 2008. He had a record of 141-49.

His success began in 2007, when Latrobe defeated Seneca Valley, 5-1, for its first WPIAL title under his watch. The Wildcats ended this season with a 9-1 loss to Shaler in the WPIAL AAAA quarterfinals.

Applications are being accepted for the position, but the candidates have huge shoes to fill, according to athletic director Mark Mears.

“Between his daughter and his family, it wasn't a real big surprise to us,” Mears said. “You're sad to lose a guy like Bob, but he has a family, too.

“He kept the student-athlete in the right order,” he said. “He always made them maintain a B grade-point average. He was very strict about that. He reinforced to the girls that they needed to get an education first.”

Coaching to Kovalcin was never about wins and loses; it was about the girls, he said.

“Your coach is just an aspect of a parent,” he said. “Just that little bit of time a day through the season, or the year, to help mold that young lady. ... If I did anything, that little bit, that would be the most important thing to me. All the other stuff is irrelevant.”

Kovalcin's coaching style went above and beyond as he molded all-star players and successful young women, Mears said. In nine years, only one of his players chose to not attend college.

“He taught Latrobe softball at a very high level,” Mears said. “Now the challenge is to keep it there.”

Brittany Goncar is a freelance writer.

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