Maui Ahuna and Tennessee baseball have a final hurdle to clear for the prized transfer shortstop to receive clearance from NCAA compliance, Vols coach Tony Vitello said Tuesday.
Ahuna, Tennessee’s top offseason addition, has not played in Tennessee’s first four games while waiting to receive the go-ahead from the NCAA. The Vols are 2-2 this season after a 10-0 run-rule victory against Alabama A&M in their home opener at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
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Vitello did not have an update on Ahuna’s eligibility nor an expected timeline Tuesday.
“I know professionals from different entities are working on it, which makes me feel as good as I can and, hopefully, him as good as he can about it,” Vitello said. “People that are way more professional than me and a lot of people that are looking out for the kid’s sole interest. Hopefully, an update soon but I don’t have something specific now.”
Vitello learned Thursday that Ahuna was not cleared to debut in UT’s season-opening 3-1 loss against Arizona in the MLB Desert Invitational. He said “there had been some things that alluded to that a little bit” prior to it being settled that he was not yet eligible.
Ahuna transferred to Tennessee from Kansas in June after an All-Big 12 season. Ahuna batted .396 with eight homers and 48 RBIs at Kansas last season. The 6-foot-1, 165-pound shortstop had 16 doubles and four triples.
Vitello said Ahuna has handled the waiting “like a champ” and has spent extra time working in the batting cages an on infield drills.
How Tennessee is handling Maui Ahuna’s absence
Redshirt sophomore Austin Jaslove has started all four games at shortstop with Ahuna out. UT lost to Grand Canyon 4-3 on Saturday and beat UC San Diego 7-0 on Sunday.
“He has been (Jaslove’s) No. 1 fan,” Vitello said. “He’s next to him in warmups, if you guys are here in time, you see what he is doing there.”
Jaslove is 2-for-12 this season.
What Tony Vitello previously said about Maui Ahuna’s eligibility
Vitello said on WNML The Sports Animal on Monday night that “hopefully everything will come to light” regarding Ahuna’s situation. He also said that Ahuna was “teary-eyed” at UT’s hotel when he found out he was not eligible yet.
“I don’t know what I can and can’t (say to media). I didn’t even ask,” Vitello said. “It really is out of my hands. Maybe (there will be) a clearer picture once things are done. I would like to hope there will be a resolution sooner than later. There’s a lot of backstories that go with it and a lot of drama and a lot of things that are left unsaid.”
Ahuna likely fits into the top two spots in Tennessee’s order when he is cleared. Tennessee’s offense struggled in its first two games this season, scoring four runs in two games before scoring 17 in the past two.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.