Kansas shortstop transfer Maui Ahuna is ineligible as Tennessee baseball starts its season tonight at the Desert Invitational in Arizona, KnoxNews’ Mike Wilson first reported and a Tennessee spokesperson confirmed to RTI.
“It was a late word for us as far as paperwork so I can’t speak to it intelligently,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said postgame. “I just know I had to tell the kid and he was very emotional about it. For the record, the first thing he said to me was ‘can I still be in the dugout?’ and it’s taken us all a while to get to know him and some of the new faces but such a lovable kid.”
Ahuna was D1Baseball’s No. 4 transfer entering this season and came to Tennessee after Kansas’ coach Ritch Price retired following the 2022 season. The elite defensive shortstop was Tennessee’s most highly touted incoming transfer landing on four preseason All-American teams.
Ahuna batted .396 with eight homers and 48 RBIs last season as one of the Big 12s best bats. The two-way star had 28 extra-base hits and is poised to be near the top of Tennessee’s batting order when/if he receives his eligibility.
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Tennessee released a blanket statement via Twitter this evening as the shortstop could be ruled eligible at any time but there is no definitive timeline for when the Vols will hear.
Austen Jaslove started at shortstop in his place, going 0-for-4 at the plate. The Knoxville native was impressive in fall ball and was poised to be Ahuna’s backup before competing for the starting job next season.
“Pretty cool story came out of that. Jassy is an instate kid that loves the Vols, has basically not gotten to do anything other than practice the last two years— no reward and has bided his time and has certainly worked him butt off to make sure he belongs on the field like tonight,” Vitello said. “I don’t think anybody could argue he didn’t.”
The projected starting shortstop isn’t the only Tennessee transfer who is not eligible for the season opener. Cincinnati outfield transfer Griffin Merritt is suspended for the first two games of the season by the NCAA after being ejected following the Bearcats season ending loss in the AAC Tournament last season.
Tennessee opens up its 2023 season at 8 p.m. ET against Arizona in game one of the Desert Invitational. The MLB Network is broadcasting the game with MLB.com streaming the matchup. The Vols will face Grand Canyon Saturday and UC-San Diego Sunday.
Rick Barnes is overpaid and his recruiting class is subpar at best. You can’t lose to unranked teams when you get paid millions. A&M next and Alabama again soon. Won’t get far in the sec tournament nor get out of the first round in march. So sad to see. Five star player is hurt and really wasn’t playing five star when he got hurt. Hurry up football.