The Michigan Daily -SPORTSMonday, Monday, April 3, 1995 - 9
Continued from page 1
it," Arvia says. "It helps us to keep
Kovach can not touch the game
ball before she is to pitch. And she
certainly can not touch the ball until
Arvia hands it to her. At that time,
she rubs her brother's cleaner over
it and then,.only then, is she ready
Call it superstition, a pregame
gitual or anything that you like.
This is Kovach's personal way of
dedicating herself to her brother.
It is one of the ways she tries to
do something special in his
Kelly is the
efc perfect example
*of what you want
in a student=
- Carol Hutchins
Michigan softball coach
"I'm always afraid that I am
Ngoing to fail. I just want to do
something nice (for my brother). I
just don't want to fail," Kovach
says, tears welling in her eyes.
Kovach was born April 3, 1972
in Whitehall, Pa. - four miles
outside of Pittsburgh - into an
athletic family. Her sister, Karen,
was a gymnast in high school, her
other played hockey and her
Father was a professional softball
player. He was a shortstop for the
slow-pitch Pittsburgh Hardhats,
which won approximately five
world championships, and was
r)amed to the Alt-World team
Besides playing catch with his
daughter, Michael took Kelly to
many of his games, where she was
sable to see professional athletes.
Mike attributes those experiences,
plus Kelly's overall love for sports,
as the reasons for her dedication to
"I think the fact that I played
and that she traveled with us helped
her decision to play," Mike says.
"She was around ball players and
was aware of the competition."
Kelly has played softball since
she was five, participating in
various slow-pitch leagues in and
around Pittsburgh. She played a
variety of other sports, such as
basketball, volleyball and soccer.
Her raw talent was apparent at a
very early age.
So was her modesty.
Kelly's mother sums up her
daughter's main quality in two
simple sentences: "She was always
modest. Even from the time that she
was a little kid."
Kovach doesn't think boasting is
nice. But she also doesn't like it
because it broadcasts your
accomplishments - something
that, because of the weighty
memory she carries, she doesn't
want to do.
"I just don't want to fail."
A slow-pitch player since age
five, Kovach started playing fast-
pitch in 10th grade at Baldwin High
School. She would have started
earlier but Pennsylvania only offers
slow-pitch in elementary and
The late change in high school
did not make much of a difference
- she still had a stunning high
school career - but she will never
"I thought that I might want to
play in college, and my coaches
pushed me to go play, but I was
kind of tentative because I didn't
know if I was good enough,"
Yet Kelly was good enough to
be captain of the volleyball,
basketball and softball teams at
Baldwin. Softball was her favorite.
She won the 1990-91 USA
TODAY Pennsylvania, the
Pittsburgh Post Gazette and the
Chamber of Commerce Female
Athlete of the Year awards for
softball. A three-time All-State
First-Team and all-league
selection, she closed out her
softball career with a 0.48 ERA,
53-5 win-loss record and a .463
"We never kept track of (records
in high school)," Kovach says. "Our
coach didn't emphasize that. I think
that was really good."
"She is always very concerned
about hurting teammates and
getting too much coverage," her
At Baldwin, Kovach was a
member of the honor roll and the
National Honor Society, and was a
regular volunteer in various
community service activities, such
as the Special Olympics.
"She is the kind of young lady
you bring back to a school," her
high school coach Paul Hindes says.
"She is the kind of person you
would want kindergarten through
12th graders to see."
Michael Kovach was the
manager of the American Legion
Baseball Team when Kelly was a
junior in high school. Mike
remembers one game in particular
where he was one player short. So
he put Kelly on the roster.
The entire team dressed before
games, and so did Kelly. To look
less conspicuous, she put her hair
up in her cap and joined the team
on the field. The pledge of
allegiance began, and caps came
off. So did Kelly's, and her hair
came down in a cascade of light
brown and blond.
"She took her hat off and she
was beet red," her father says.
Kelly was in right field. The first
pitch turned into a high fly right to
her. "It seemed like it was in slow
motion," her father says. "Kelly
drifted back and back. It seemed
like the ball was up there for 15
minutes. It was like a scene out of
'Bad News Bears!"'
made for herself. She did not ask
for help from her parents, friends,
"She picked her own sports and
her own school," her father says.
"She didn't ask for our input. She's
a very bright girl and makes good
"She's a comfortable kind of
kid," Michigan coach Carol
Hutchins said. "She's a warm
person and a nice person to talk
to. She really fit into our
Kovach says her decision to
attend Michigan could not have
been better. "When I came here
(for my recruiting visit), I totally
fit in with everyone on the team
and they reassured me that I
would be able to play here
because I was so worried,"
"I love it here. I love this
An elementary education major
with a 3.6 GPA, she hopes to teach
mathematics to fourth, fifth, sixth or
seventh gftaders. She is a member of
the Kappa Delta Phi education
honorary and a Golden Key
As a freshman in 1992, Kovach
was named the Big Ten and
Michigan pitcher of the year, Big
Ten freshman of the year and was
an All-Big Ten First-Team
selection. In 1993, she was
Academic All-Big Ten and received
the U-M Athletic Academic
Achievement award. -
In 1994, she was named a GTE
Academic All-American First-
Team, Academic All-District IV,
received the U-M Athletic
Academic Achievement Award and
was an Academic All-Big Ten
This season, she is one of five
finalists for the National
STUDENT-Athlete Day Giant
Steps Award in the category of
Courageous Female Student-
Athlete. The winner will be
announced this Thursd4y in USA
"I realize this (being an
academic All-American) is a great
accomplishment, but I don't overdo
it at all," says Kovach, who also has
an active social life.
"Kelly is the perfect example of
what you want in a student-athlete,"
Hutchins said. "She's not going to
slack off. She's a classic winner."
Kovach has volunteered at local
Ann Arbor schools, tutoring grade
school students in math twice a
week. Last semester, she was the
chair for the "Dream Team," a
program that works with students in
Name: Kelly Kovach
Detroit. The team traveling
schedule prevents her from tutoring
But Kovach is tight-lipped about
her good deeds.
"We found out about (her
volunteer work) a year ago,"
Georgia Kovach says.
"She really enjoys doing it,"
Michael Kovach says. "She was
always helping charities around
here. When I thought about (the
volunteering), it was not out of the
ordinary (for her)."
Kelly enjoys her experiences
with the students. "The kids were
soooo excited. I have a great time
with them," Kovach says. "There
was one kid who was just so cute.
He always wanted to come to the
"People look up to her," Arvia
says. "She's a definite role model
and a great person."
Kovach's athletic successes
match, if not surpass, her
academic ones. She is poised to be
Michigan's all-time leader in
several pitching categories. She is
9-0 from the mound this season,
and will surpass current leader
Vicki Morrow with three more
wins. She needs 34 more
strikeouts to pass Morrow's
record of 446.
"I'm not concerned (with the
records) at all," Kovach says.
"Mostly what those (records) show,
especially for pitchers, is that you.
play on really good teams. In order
to get those kinds of records you
have to have a good defense. All of
the teams I have played on here
have been really successful. My
records will show the good teams I
have played on here."
"She set the standard for
student-athletes (at Baldwin),"
Hindes says. "I don't think a person
can accomplish more than she has
as a student-athlete."
Kovach's senior year as a
Wolverine is rapidly coming to a
close. She has been a part of the
most successful softball senior
class in Michigan history: It won
the Big Ten Conference
championship and played in the
NCAA Regionals in 1992 and
1993. The seniors want to end
their last season with the one
accolade they are missing - a trip
to the NCAA World Series.
The Series will be held in
Oklahoma City, Okla., this year.
The addition of four outstanding
freshmen to an already
accomplished and talented team
places the Wolverines in a.
position to accomplish their
"I really believe in our team,"
Kovach says. "I know we are
going to have a good shot. This
has been the best year for me.
Everyone on the team is-so good
and we don't really have any weak
"My dad is being inducted into
the Hall of Fame in Oklahoma
City," Kovach adds. "I am not sure
if he is going to be inducted this
year or next year, but he said that he
has always wanted to go to
"Now I want to go."
Michigan blanks the Hoosiers,
4-0, in the weekend series; Kovach
wins two of them and had her first
grand slam. Her record is now 10-0
and she is inching closer to the all-
time wins record.
At the end of game four, she
congratulates the Indiana players
and her teammates before walking
off the field. The team's four wins
will make her birthday even better
She is ready to go home and
spend time with her parents, but
first she must gather her belongings.
She puts the towel back in her
bag, where it will stay until the next
game. Though various sweat bands
and cleats may conceal the towel in
her bag, the meaning it carries for
Kovach is always first and foremost
in her heart - and in her life.
Right now, the memory of her
brother is close to her, and failure
Finally, the ball fell right into
After the game, she told her
father that her baseball days were
"She was embarrassed, (but) I
believe that it was the only time in
American Legion baseball that a
girl played," Mike says proudly.
Various colleges recruited
Kovach for both softball and
volleyball. She says choosing which
sport to play at the collegiate level
was one of most difficult decisions
of her life.
"I was going to make some
recruiting trips for volleyball ,
instead of softball (in the fall of my
senior year)," Kovach says. "Then
over Christmas I decided that I
wanted to play softball. I'm so glad
that I (did)."
Her decision to attend Michigan
and play softball was a decision she
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