Winna softball player

In a photo before the pandemic, Winnacunnet High’s Hannah Thompson shares a moment with softball coach Dennis Bruce.

THE WINNACUNNET HIGH SCHOOL softball team opened the 2021 season by beating Timberlane 14-0 Monday. The Warriors earned that victory without Hannah Thompson.

Some of you may be familiar with Thompson’s predicament from reading the Union Leader story about her that ran last month. For those not familiar with her situation, here’s a recap:

The NHIAA allows students to participate in athletics for eight consecutive semesters once he or she enters ninth grade. Thompson’s situation is unique because she attended Governor’s Academy, a prep school in Byfield, Mass., as a freshman, but transferred to Winnacunnet and repeated her freshman year. Thompson’s eighth semester was last spring, when the high softball season was canceled because of COVID-19.

Winnacunnet appealed to the NHIAA with the hope that Thompson would be allowed to regain the semester that was lost to COVID and play softball this spring, but each of the appeals was denied.

The NHIAA has argued that Thompson’s eighth semester of eligibility has expired, and allowing her to compete this spring would displace another athlete from Winnacunnet’s varsity roster.

If the NHIAA granted Thompson eligibility to play this spring, it could also open the door for other eligibility disputes to be won by schools/athletes in the future.

After Thompson’s final appeal was denied by the NHIAA eligibility committee, Thompson’s family filed a temporary restraining order injunction with New Hampshire Superior Court last week.

“Basically a judge reviews this to see if there’s enough injustice and harm being done to Hannah for the courts to allow her to play for now until this can be heard further,” Thompson’s father Shaun said. “That was heard on Friday. We’re talking about an unprecedented case with COVID.”

As of this writing, the Thompsons did not have the judge’s decision.

Winnacunnet is scheduled to play Timberlane again today, and then is off until Monday, when it will face Windham.

Since the NHIAA is using a random draw for its softball tournaments this year — and other spring tournaments as well — a team’s regular-season record will have no bearing on where it’s seeded for the postseason. Shaun Thompson said his daughter would be willing to play in regular-season games only, and then sit out the postseason, but he said a compromise of that nature doesn’t seem likely.

Regardless of how this turns out, Thompson, an infielder, will continue her softball career in college. She has signed a National Letter of Intent to play at the University of North Dakota.

“My attorney said (the judge) knows it’s time sensitive,” Shaun Thompson said. “Definitely the latest (he’ll make a decision) will be Friday.”

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ICYMI: Former Pinkerton Academy standout Geo Baker has announced that he will enter his name in the 2021 NBA draft. Baker, a 6-foot-4 guard, helped Rutgers qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time in 30 years this season. Since the NCAA has granted its winter athletes an additional year of eligibility, Baker can return to Rutgers for one more season if he does not hire an agent.

Baker, a Derry resident, ranks fifth all-time in program history in assists (376), seventh in 3-pointers (183), eighth in steals (145) and 20th in points (1,269). He averaged 11.1 points, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals in his 117 games with the Scarlet Knights.

Players have until July 19 to pull their name from consideration for this year’s draft, which will be held July 29.

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Former University of New Hampshire guard Sean Sutherlin has transferred to the University of Minnesota. He announced his decision on his Twitter account.

Sutherlin, a Minnesota native, averaged 12.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists during his first season at UNH (2019-20). He was the team’s leading rebounder and No. 2 scorer that year. Sutherlin did not play last season because of a hip injury.

Sutherlin played two years at the junior college level at Sheridan College in Wyoming before he landed at UNH. He graduated from Irondale High School in Mounds View, Minn.

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In response to the firing of Pembroke Academy track and field coach Brad Keyes, a change.org petition has been formed requesting that the decision to require most NHIAA athletes to wear masks while competing in outdoor sports this spring be rescinded.

Keyes was fired last week after he stated publicly that he would not enforce the school policy that required some (not all) track and field athletes to wear masks while competing this spring.

Keyes has been on a media tour since then that included an appearance on Fox News with Tucker Carlson last Friday.

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