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Vitello Returns From Suspension, Maui Ahuna Makes Tennessee Debut Against Charleston Southern

Tony Vitello
Tennessee HC Tony Vitello. Photo by Rocky Top Insider.

There was little drama on the field as Tennessee knocked off Charleston Southern 6-1 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium Tuesday afternoon.

But the storylines were clear as the Vols improved to 6-0 on the home stand. Tony Vitello returned to the field after a brief suspension while Kansas transfer Maui Ahuna made his Volunteer debut.

Vitello served a three-game suspension over the weekend for NCAA violations in Tennessee’s recruitment of Ahuna. The violations surrounded impermissible contact and Tennessee handed Vitello the suspension— not the NCAA or SEC.

“Was just kind of talking with administration, anyone possible for me to talk to, really,” Vitello said of the decision to serve a suspension. “You want to make the right decision, but you are kind of under the gun with the timeline. And we, and when I say we, I mean everybody that you could think of that would be involved in that action, wanted to support the kid. Just wanted to do whatever we thought was right to get him back on the field. It was a contributing factor, hopefully, to getting him back out there.”

For the first time this season, Tennessee had its whole lineup and head coach available and active in the dugout.

“It felt outstanding at the start of the day, got the good vibes going and all that,” Vitello said. “Probably smiling more than I normally do. And then when the action starts, with pregame and everything, whether it’s a playoff game or a road game or a home game, you kind of get into the (game).”

While Vitello’s return to the field was little surprise, Maui Ahuna’s Tennessee debut was highly anticipated even before the NCAA ruled him ineligible to start the season.

More From RTI: Everything Tony Vitello Said After Returning From Suspension

Ahuna became eligible Monday afternoon leading to a lively day at the Tennessee baseball facility.

“It was in the weight room, and he kinda took over from there,” Vitello said. “I believe there was a Haka dance going on all kinds of stuff. I try to keep away from any celebrations right now with what I got going on with the jaw. Probably one that goes in the memory bank with this team, and that’s good. Because it’s kind of been a theme with this group of finding themselves, we’re trying to find out things about them and create memories along the way, which is what this whole thing’s about. It’s what everything’s about, really.”

Maui Ahuna went one-f0r-four at the plate in his Tennessee debut, almost homering in the first inning before singling to center field for his first Volunteer hit in his third at-bat.

Between Ahuna’a ineligibility and Vitello’s suspension, it’s been a dramatic and adversity filled start to the season. Tennessee cast of new starters have had to deal with a lot of distractions off the field in the season’s first 10 days.

“I think that stuff, outstanding,” Vitello said of how his team handled the adversity. “About as well as they can. Kinda like game time news, I think (strength coach) Q(uentin Eberhardt) was the one to tell them right after stretch in Arizona. Q was the one to tell them, he’s kind of the hatchet man in a lot of different ways, the one to tell them on Friday here kind of last minute news. They’re kids man, I think a lot of things, there’s a lot of things out there, because everyone has a voice, you can pick them apart and make them a bigger thing than they are. And at the root of everything, kids just want to play baseball.

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