Spade to be honored as part of 1981 ESU softball team

As a member of Emporia State University’s 1981 Lady Hornet softball team, which made it all the way to the championship game of the first NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) Softball World Series that year, Deb Spade of Holton says it is “pretty special” that the team will be joining the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

“Most of the time, only the champs get recognized,” Spade said of the 1981 team, which finished that season as the national runner-up. “So this time will be exciting for that very hard-working team.”

Spade and her teammates from the 1981 season will be honored at halftime of ESU’s football homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 23, with details for a formal Hall of Fame induction ceremony to be announced later.

It will be the second time that an ESU softball team that counted Spade as a member will join ESU’s Athletic Hall of Fame, as she was part of the 1980 team that won the first AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) Division II national championship.

“The two inductions are both fantastic honors for our teams,” Spade said. “The 1980 team induction was special because we had won a national title. It was the first for a softball program at ESU. The second will have some new players that filled vacant spots from our title team.”

Growing up in Silver Lake, Spade played softball mainly during the summer, since the high school didn’t have a softball program, but she fondly recalled practicing and playing with another Silver Lake resident, Brenda Stolle.

“We grew up together playing, and I was her catcher when she was learning to pitch in high school,” Spade said of Stolle.

The two of them played softball at Washburn University for a year before Stolle transferred to ESU.

“While at Washburn, we were a part of the first ever conference champions for women in 1978,” Spade said. “Brenda made all-conference that year, and I was honorable mention.”

Spade transferred to ESU in time for the 1980 season as an infielder, and that year, the team went 40-4, winning the first AIAW Division II national championship. That year’s team was inducted into ESU’s hall of fame in 2005, while Stolle was inducted into the hall of fame individually in 1988.

During her first year with the Hornets as a junior, Spade played at first base, then moved to outfield for her senior year. Both were positions she was unfamiliar with at first, but she “settled in” after “a bumpy start,” she said.

“Over the years, I became a very versatile player, filling in open spots that were needed,” she said. “I loved the game, so I was willing to do whatever was needed to play and to help my team.”

For more on this and other stories, please log in to your account and click on Sept. 29, 2021 under “E-Editions.”

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109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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