“I love it when a plan comes together.”

George Peppard’s closing catchphrase from 1980s prime-time TV staple “The A-Team” fits Debbie Hill pretty nicely.

A multi-sport athlete through her first three years of high school, Hill said goodbye to basketball and went all in on softball going into her senior year. That bet has paid off handsomely.

Hill has leveled up in every measurable way, and the Warriors are reaping the benefits. The senior’s transformation from very good to great has coincided with her team’s — Whiteland has gone from a dangerous 15-10 squad to an unbeaten juggernaut ranked second in the state in Class 4A; along the way, Hill has transformed herself into a Miss Softball contender.

“There’s always a certain sense of confidence that comes with being a senior,” Whiteland coach Katie Mitchell said of Hill. “I know that she has been working really hard in the offseason; she’s been lifting, she’s been getting reps, they’ve been playing a lot. There’s a lot that happens outside of high school softball season with her travel teams, and you can tell that she’s been putting in the work to get better each day.”

And she has certainly gotten better. Hill batted .346 as a junior, with a .420 on-base percentage and a .576 slugging percentage; this spring, she’s raised her slash line in those categories to .500/.621/.958. After finishing last season with three home runs and 20 runs batted in, she’s already got five dingers and 25 RBIs through 17 games this year.

The improvement has been even more noticeable in the pitching circle. In 2021, Hill posted a respectable 2.70 earned-run average with 148 strikeouts and 24 walks in 129 2/3 innings pitched; opponents batted .252 against her. This year, foes are hitting just .168 against the 6-foot lefty, who has fanned 113 and walked just 12 in 75 innings of work while lowering her ERA all the way down to 0.65.

One thing that’s helped Hill out has been the arrival of freshman Kiley Sullivan, who has stepped in as a reliable No. 2 starter. Hill often hasn’t had to throw in back-to-back games very frequently this season, allowing her to stay fresher both physically and mentally.

Hill hasn’t had to carry this team by herself in any way — the Warriors have senior leaders in the infield (Tara Watson) and outfield (Trinity Borders), and Hill has been throwing to senior catcher Haley Wilkerson since they were 8 years old. Whiteland has nine players batting over .300 and eight players with at least 10 RBIs.

Not feeling a disproportionate share of the leadership burden has helped Hill immensely.

“There’s definitely not near as much pressure, because our team is so talented,” she said. “We have so much talent throughout the whole lineup, in the field defensively. We have so much leadership, it’s unbelievable. So I just know if I’m having an off game, someone else is going to pick me up and we’re going to be fine.”

Also helping is the fact that Hill doesn’t have the added pressure of finding a place to play college ball. She committed to Trine University, a Division III school in Angola, back in October and plans to study exercise science there.

The Thunder are a perennial fixture in the NCAA Division III tournament; they finished third in 2019 and enter this year’s tourney ranked 21st in the nation.

“Trine was just a great fit for me,” Hill said. “They had what I want to major in, they have a great softball program, the coaching staff’s awesome. Just everything about that school is awesome. I love it.”

This season should help get Hill accustomed to those high expectations she’ll face with the Thunder. Whiteland is playing the role of the hunted rather than the hunter now, starting with this weekend’s Johnson County tournament. The top-seeded Warriors received a bye into Saturday morning’s semifinal round, where they’ll face either Indian Creek or Franklin. They’re 6-0 against county rivals so far, including a 7-6 victory over Center Grove in the season opener.

Going into tournament play as the favorite is a new feeling for Hill and her teammates, but it’s one they’ve enjoyed and embraced thus far.

“It is a little bit different than probably even last year,” Mitchell said. “We know that we have a target on our back — we like it. That piece of it is more mental than anything else, and I think we’ll just continue to go out there and play our game. We know that everyone’s going to bring their best game when they come play us, so that just adds a little bit more incentive to be our best each day.”

“We just have to play it one game at a time,” Hill added. “Obviously, every game is a challenge no matter who it is, but we just have have to go in knowing that we just have to play Whiteland softball and we’ll be fine.”

That plan has worked out pretty well so far.



Johnson County tournament


Greenwood Christian at Greenwood, 5:30 p.m.

Edinburgh at Center Grove, 5:30 p.m.

Indian Creek at Franklin, 5:30 p.m.


At Center Grove

GCA/Greenwood vs. Edinburgh/Center Grove, 10 a.m.

Indian Creek/Franklin vs. Whiteland, 10 a.m.

Championship, 12:30 p.m.