LOUISVILLE, Ky. – One of the marquee events everyone looks forward to is the Hall of Fame banquet. Each year at the NFCA Convention, members are recognized for their accomplishments both on and off the field and contributions to the sport of softball with inductions into the prestigious Hall of Fame.
This year’s event features recently retired Ashland head coach Sheilah Gulas, former OC Batbusters coach Gary Haning, Carson-Newman head coach Vickee Kazee-Hollifield and former Connecticut head coach Karen Mullins.
Both Haning and Mullins were elected in the Pioneer category, which recognizes an NFCA member who has contributed above and beyond to the sport of fastpitch softball through service, leadership, coaching and/or participation.
Preceded by a 30-minute reception, the Hall of Fame banquet is Friday, Dec. 8 at 7:00 p.m. in Paris Las Vegas’ Champagne Ballroom. Bally’s Las Vegas is the host hotel of the 2017 NFCA National Convention, Dec. 6-9. Paris is linked via a promenade to Bally’s.
Gulas, who retired after the 2017 season, enjoyed a 31-year career as a collegiate head coach, the last 21 years as the Eagles’ skipper. Compiling 30 wins in her final season, she surpassed 900 career victories and won nearly 66 percent of her games (929-487-1). In her final 21 seasons guiding the Eagles, Gulas collected 723 wins.
She has compiled a winning record in all 21 of her seasons at Ashland, making 12 NCAA Division II tournaments and collecting five Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) titles and three conference Coach of the Year awards. In 1998, her second season, Gulas guided Ashland to a school-record 53 wins and a No. 3 national ranking. The Eagles have collected 40 wins five times during her tenure.
Prior to her stint with Ashland, Gulas made stops as the head coach at Wittenberg (1991-96) and Allegheny (1987-90).
“It definitely took my breath away,” Gulas said of the honor in a statement released by her school. “I felt really weak when I stood up (at the Hall of Fame Banquet) after they announced the whole thing. It was overwhelming.”
Haning helped build the Batbusters into one of the most well-known and successful travel ball organizations in the nation, with more than 30 national championships. His team rosters have been a who’s who of the top names in softball.
Four-time All-American and four-time Olympic medalist Laura Berg and her twin sister Randi, delivered the Batbusters’ first 18-and-under national title in 1992 on a loaded team that also featured former UCLA standouts Nicole (Odom) Reis and Leah Poulson, former Arizona stars Leah Braatz and Andrea Doty, and Cal-Berkeley star Gillian Boxx. Fellow Olympic star and Women’s College World Series champion Jennie Finch, won a 1997 national crown and had 1998 runner-up finish with the Batbusters as a teammate of her future University of Arizona teammate Toni Mascarenas.
Haning also co-founded the hugely-successful Premier Girls Fastpitch with Dan Hay.
Kazee-Hollifield, who is the program’s only head coach, is already a member of the Carson-Newman and South Atlantic Conference (SAC) Halls of Fame after leading the school to 24 Southern Athletic Conference (SAC) crowns, 13 NCAA berths — including seven straight from 2004-11 — and winning 12 conference Coach of the Year honors.
Entering her 33rd season at the helm in 2018, she has registered 1,135 career victories, which ranks sixth and 22nd among Division II and four-year college head coaches, respectively. Her .738 winning percentage ranks inside the top-10 of the Division II coaching annals.
In addition to her softball prowess, Kazee-Hollifield was a standout basketball player, leading the state of Tennessee in scoring her senior year of high school and later earning selection to the Carson-Newman “Team of the Century” in 1995, still ranking among the school statistical leaders. She also is a former head volleyball coach at Carson-Newman, compiling a 59-21 record over her three seasons, and an assistant for the basketball program, before concentrating solely on the softball program and serving as the school’s senior woman administrator.
Mullins, who retired in 2014, went 862-636-5 over 31 seasons leading her alma mater. UConn went to eight NCAA tournaments on her watch, and advanced to the Women’s College World Series in 1993, when the Huskies won a school-record 45 games and finished a run of five straight NCAA appearances.
During her tenure, UConn captured seven Big East tournament titles and four regular-season crowns. Mullins is a former player for both the Huskies’ softball and basketball teams, as well as a former nationally-recognized Major League Fastpitch Softball infielder and the co-founder of the Single-A Major Waterford (Conn.) Mariners softball team.