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Vitello: Maui Ahuna Handling Ineligibility ‘Like A Champ’

Tennessee shortstop Maui Ahuna. Photo By Emma Corona/Tennessee Athletics

It’s been a trying week for incoming shortstop transfer Maui Ahuna. The highest touted incomer in Tennessee baseball’s 2022 transfer and recruiting class learned he wouldn’t start the season eligible after the Vols had made a cross country flight for the Desert Invitational.

Ahuna’s family had already flown from Hawaii to Arizona to watch the Kansas’ transfer’s first weekend as a Vol leading to the frustration over his ineligibility.

Meeting with the media following Tennessee’s home opening win over Alabama A&M, Vitello noted there’s been no updates from the NCAA regarding Ahuna’s status.

“I don’t have a specific update,” Vitello said. “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. 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.”

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While it has been a trying week for the potential first round pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, Ahuna is handling his unfortunate inability to play the best way he can.

“Like a champ,” Vitello said. “Like a dang champ. He has been really good about getting extra work in (the cages) and on the field because he knows he is not going to be burning a bunch of calories out there. He has been (Austen Jaslove’s) No. 1 fan. Next to him in warmups, if you guys are here in time, you see what he is doing there. Then he is just a fun-loving kid in general.”

Ahuna committed to Tennessee in June after entering the transfer portal following the end of Kansas’ 2022 season. Jayhawks head coach Ritch Price retired following the conclusion of the season leading to Ahuna looking for a new home.

While Tennessee didn’t learn Ahuna would be ineligible until “about 24 hours before first pitch” the Vols’ coaching staff was aware it was a possibility.

“Yeah, there had been some things that alluded to that a little bit,” Vitello said.

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 eligibility.

Tennessee baseball returns to the field Wednesday afternoon against Alabama A&M in the second of two midweek matchups with the Bulldogs.

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