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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 31, 2003

Pitcher Azze ruled ineligible by NCAA

By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

A week before its season opener, the University of Hawai'i baseball team will be without one of its top pitchers.

Junior college transfer Justin Azze will not be eligible to pitch for the Rainbows because of an NCAA transfer issue, UH coach Mike Trapasso said. Azze told The Advertiser when he transferred from one high school to another, he did not re-register for a science lab, leaving him a half-credit short. Azze, a 2000 graduate from Fountain Valley (Calif.) High, transferred to UH after two seasons at Orange Coast College.

Azze, a 10th-round pick of the Montreal Expos in last June's baseball draft, was projected to be one of the team's top starters. More critical was that the 6-foot-2, 190-pound junior is left-handed. The only other left-hander on the team is Washington State transfer Justin Cayetano, a graduate of Mililani High. Cayetano is projected as a reliever or spot starter.

"It's a crazy situation," Trapasso said. "I've never see this come up before, but we have to deal with what the NCAA says.

"I feel bad for Justin, but we have to move on. It's a blow because he was a 10th-round pick and projected to be one of our front-line guys. But we treat it like an injury; it's part of the game. We just have to overcome without him. That means some of our younger guys will be thrown into the fire early. That means one of our more experienced players will be bumped to the weekend (rotation)."

The issue wasn't discovered until Azze had already enrolled in the fall.

Since returning for spring semester, he hasn't been allowed to practice with the team, but has been working out on his own, Trapasso said.

While still taking classes at UH, Azze said he has been trying to complete his associate's degree through the Internet. An appeal for a waiver of the high school half-credit has already been denied by the NCAA, Trapasso said.

He said another appeal will be made using the AA degree to override the high school shortcoming.

Last year's No. 1 pitcher, Chris George is likely to retain his role in the rotation.Newcomer Colby Summer, and either Cayetano or sophomore Ricky Bauer are projected to round out the rotation.

Outfielder Nate Jackson still hasn't been cleared to play because of NCAA eligibility issues. Jackson, who had surgery to replace a heart valve in November, was cleared by doctors to practice on Jan. 21. However, fund-raisers that helped defray his medical expenses have to be cleared, Trapasso said.

Jackson and Azze will not play in tomorrow's alumni game at Les Murakami Stadium. Game time is 1 p.m.

The Rainbows start a three-game series against UCLA Feb. 7.