Senior night for four outstanding Whiteland High School softball players could not have gone better.
Seniors Trinity Borders, Tara Watson, Debbie Hill, and Haley Wilkerson slammed big hits to the outfield and scored the first four runs May 11 against Mid-State opponent Perry Meridian. The senior quartet reached base eight times in 13 at-bats in the lopsided 11-0 triumph in five innings.
Pre-game was a bit unusual because it was more formal with their recognition as seniors with their parents. The Warriors wound up foregoing their hacky-sak routine because they warmed up immediately after the pre-game ceremony.
The undefeated host Warriors (19-0), swept the Falcons, 18-0 on May 10 and back home the next evening, 10-0, both wins in five innings. Hill led the way going 3 for 3 and driving in three runs with freshman Kiley Sullivan and sophomore Ava Smith each driving in 2 RBI.
Afterwards, the seniors proved that they know how to have fun when they joined together for humorous senior night video. They were all smiles as they relaxed and joked around with their coaches and parents.
These four seniors have played softball together since they were eight years old, and their bonding shows.
“We just have fun together,” Watson emphasized. “We know when the right time comes to play hard and we zone in. We eat, breathe, and sleep softball. We know what we’re doing and we’re focused on winning and playing hard.”
Borders added, “Growing up together has really help us trust each other. We only lost two seniors last year so we knew how we could play together. Getting a lot more reps last year really helped your confidence.”
Whiteland opened the season by defeating Center Grove 7-6. The rivalry resumed Saturday in the title game of the Johnson County tourney as the Trojans squeaked out a 1-0 win that ended the Warriors unbeaten streak of 19 games. Whiteland had obtained a lofty No. 2 state ranking by MaxPreps with Roncalli No. 1 and Center Grove No. 4.
As a team, they are hitting .388 through May 11 with seniors,Hill leading at .527 with 29 hits and 31 RBI; Borders .418; Wilkerson .417, and Watson .373. Junior Emma Thompson is hitting .432 and has scored 33 runs. Freshman Kiley Sullivan is hitting .400.
Hill (12-0) has a remarkable 0.61 ERA, giving up only seven earned runs and striking out 117 foes. Providing some breaks for Hill, Sullivan is 6-0 with a 2.69 ERA.
Hill and Wilkerson have been battery mates since being in middle school. And Hill is enjoying the relief from Sullivan on the mound after being the main pitcher last year. Even during summer leagues on different teams, the seniors found time to practice together.
“Being able to play all four years of high school together and playing one last time together for our senior season is great,” Hill said. “The whole team has bonded so well this year.”
Hill’s battery mate Wilkerson remarked, “We’re able to come together every day. One year has made a big difference. We’ve been able to grow and bond even more.”
The Warriors also have two juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen.
In her seventh season at the helm, coach Katie Mitchell is impressed with the way the seniors interact with the younger players.
“Our four seniors are so special,” she praised. “Not only do they have incredible talent but they have great character and leadership. Each one leads differently and they have been able to bond with different underclassmen. It’s also nice to have the seniors spread out on the field - pitcher, catcher, first base, and left field.
“Last year was a big season to build where we’re at now. We were intentional about keeping everything going, working on our chemistry, our reps, the weight room; it was a matter of keeping the momentum going into this year.”
The Warriors posted their first winning season in ages in 2021 after winning 13 games in 2019. This construction took awhile after Mitchell went 20-82 from 2015 through 2018.
“This bunch just loves to be together,” Mitchell said. “We’re having a blast - we love to enjoy the game.”
The Warriors finish up a late-season showdown against Mooresville for the Mid-State championship on the road today (Wednesday) at 5:30 p.m. They met at DC Tuesday night (too late for deadline).