Five individuals with a combined 120 years of playing experience comprise this year's class of the Metro Omaha Softball Hall of Fame.
Dave Banghart, Joe Brazda Sr., Jeri Lewis, Ron Osborn and Nick Sailors will be honored at the seventh annual ceremony Friday at Happy Hollow Club.
Banghart enjoyed a long playing career, but his most lasting contribution to Omaha softball was the founding of the Nebraska Senior Softball (ages 50-over) organization. The league began with two teams in May 2000, but has grown to 15 teams and 184 players in 2013.
His first exposure to senior softball was in 1998, when he was recruited to play with the Augustana College Seniors team in the 60-plus Senior World Championships. He also played the next few years with several Kansas City tournament teams.
He is a member of the two largest senior softball organizations, Senior Softball-USA and Softball Players Association. He has served as tournament director and host of the Nebraska Half-Century Softball Challenge in Omaha annually since 2002.
Banghart is still playing at 77. As a senior player, Banghart has a .650 career batting average and still can hit, run and throw with proficiency. He has been named to three senior All-American teams, one All-World team, six all-tournament teams and received several MVP awards.
He was inducted into the National Senior Softball Hall of Fame on Sept. 4, 2010.
JOE BRAZDA SR.
Brazda began playing and pitching fast-pitch softball in 1946 — at 17 — for the Social Settlement Youth League. He continued to play for the next 38 years, retiring in 1984.
He started adult league softball during the glory days of softball at the old Falstaff Park on 24th and Vinton. He learned from the best pitchers in Omaha, including Ben Crain, a member of both the national and Omaha softball halls of fame.
Brazda was known as a fierce competitor who had uncanny control and a variety of breaking pitches. He compiled a 650-127 record, including 15 no-hitters and two perfect games. He pitched in 20 regional tournaments, two national tournaments and played on teams that won 25 Omaha league titles.
Osborn has long been regarded as one of best pitchers to ever play men's fast-pitch softball in Nebraska. But his legacy was his tenacity in leading the effort to get softball sanctioned as a varsity sport by the Nebraska School Activities Association in the early 1990s.
In 1993, 28 Class A teams were involved in the first season of NSAA varsity softball. Now, there are 108 teams in three classes.
Osborn began playing men's fast-pitch softball in 1961 in the Holdrege Church League. He graduated from Holdrege High School in 1965, and soon after joined the military where he played for some base teams.
In 1975, he returned to attend Kearney State College and for two years played for Cattleman's Mining Co. He was picked up by the Broken Bow national traveling team in 1977 and played for the club for the next 10 years. The team won national titles in 1978 (Osborn was named most valuable pitcher), 1981, 1983 and 1987.
Osborn won more than 30 games in the Masters Nationals with Omaha USA, the All-Americans of California, Clearwater Bomber Legends and Colt 45s from Florida, and the Southern California Masters. In 1996, he was a first-team All-American.
Osborn was the pitching coach for Kearney State in 1975-76 and, after moving to Omaha, served as pitching coach at Creighton from 1978 to 1986. He was also the volunteer pitching coach at Bellevue University from 1999 to 2002.
He retired from coaching when his daughter Mandy, a two time All-Nebraska player at Blair, went on to play for Drake.
Sailors was one of the most competitive players ever for Omaha's T's 13 men's slow-pitch team.
Sailors' passion for the game started as he watched his dad, Kim Sailors, excel as a two-time All-NCC baseball player with Morningside College. Kim later became one of the best slow-pitch players in the Sioux City area.
Nick joined the Air Force after standout years with the 1991 and 1992 South Sioux City Legion baseball teams. While stationed at Offutt for eight years, he found a new home playing fast pitch with the Offutt Commanders.
He joined T's 13 in 1996 and began a 13-year career playing men's slow-pitch softball at the highest level. From 1996 to 2008, Sailors anchored T's 13 as its shortstop, playing 100-plus games per year.
The T's teams won seven open state championships, claimed six top-five finishes at the ASA Class A national tournament, won the 1997 NSA Class A World Championship and the 2001 ASA Class A National Championship. During his T's career, Sailors earned numerous first- and second-team All-America honors in national tournaments.
Lewis began playing slow-pitch softball at age 8 in her home town of Concrete, Wash., with the Cement City Sweethearts. She picked up fast-pitch softball in 1989 and soon joined the JB's Washington State Diamond Queens team that won two state titles and one regional championship.
After high school, she played for Edmond (Wash.) Community College, where she earned junior college All-America honors in 1993-1994. She was recruited by the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where she earned all-conference honors at shortstop in 1995.
In 1998, she joined the Wahl Optical women's team and quickly became one of the finest women's slow-pitch players in Omaha history. She was the mainstay of a team that won more than 100 tournaments, including 25 state titles in Nebraska and Iowa, and also traveled to national tournaments.
Lewis won all-tournament honors at the 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 USSSA national tournaments as Wahl claimed top-five finishes each year.
She played with Wahl Optical until retiring in 2009 — after enduring 17 surgeries on her shoulders, knees and ankles.