Freshman outfielder Chris Newell was named National co-Freshman of the Year by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper on June 2. Newell is the first freshman in Virginia history to receive this distinction. Newell was also named to the publication’s Freshman All-American Team alongside teammate and second baseman Max Cotier.
Newell started all 18 games for the Cavaliers at centerfield and batted .407 — the highest batting average on the team. He also led the team in runs batted in — or appearances at the plate that allowed another player to score a run — and stolen bases this season with 20 and eight, respectively. He helped the team to a 14-4 start before the coronavirus pandemic abruptly ended their promising season.
“It almost felt like a high school season, honestly,” Newell said to The Daily Progress. “We played almost 20 games, and that’s basically what you’re going to get in a high school season.”
Newell expected to play 38 more regular season games before the season was cut short, but was nonetheless able to establish himself as a valuable member of the team in the time he did have. Not only did he finish the season leading his teammates in batting average, RBI and stolen bases, but he showed clear and steady improvement in each game.
Newell started the season 1-for-11, batting 0.091, but in the final 13 games, went 23-for-48, batting .479. By the end of the season, he had hit a grand slam, a triple, four home runs, five doubles and had eight multi-hit games.
“Newell’s awesome,” Coach Brian O’Connor said to The Roanoke Times. “He’s along the lines of [Adam] Haseley and Derek Fisher and those kind of elite players.”
Under O’Connor, 22 different baseball players have been recognized with various All-American awards, and this is the third season in a row that Virginia baseball has been represented on the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Freshman All-American Team.
Alongside Newell on the publication’s Freshman All-American Team is second baseman Max Cotier. This is the first time that two Virginia baseball players were recognized in the same year by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper since 2015 when current MLB players Adam Haseley and Pavin Smith were honored.
“There were two things that helped me with my success in my first year at Virginia,” Cotier said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “First, knowing that [my teammates] were behind me all the time. Second, learning from several of the best coaches in the country really helped with my development both on and off the field.”
Cotier was on a 10-game hitting streak and had reached base in 13 straight games by the time the season concluded. Like Newell, Cotier started all 18 games this season — 17 at second base and one at shortstop. He batted .338, including 15 RBI, four triples, three doubles and a home run.
Cotier also made his way into the record book multiple times this season. His four triples were the most in the ACC and tied for the most in Division I baseball. Two of these triples came in a game against Dartmouth when he became the first Cavalier to triple twice in a game since 2016. Nearly two weeks later, he became one of 11 players in Virginia history to score five times in one game — and the first to do so in over a decade.
Newell and Cotier were quite the duo throughout the season — both starting all 18 games and influencing the team record in their own respective ways. O’Connor has not been shy about his praise for this pair of Cavaliers.
“[Newell’s] an elite player and what he did in a short period of time was impressive,” O’Connor said. “Both of those kids [Newell and Cotier] were in our lineup right away.”
These awards were an appropriate way to cap off the season for Newell and Cotier. With the strong 2020 season they both had, it is evident that their future — and the future of the Virginia baseball program — is bright. As they head into next season, Newell and Cotier will look to lead Virginia back to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. and reclaim the national championship, which the Cavaliers last won in 2015.
“We have our sights set on Omaha,” Cotier said.