Recent graduates Quinten Rawls and Jake O’Steen of Union County High School (UCHS) in Lake Butler have played baseball together since they were 5 years old, most often the middle infield side by side.
Now that their prep career is over, they will go their separate ways as both will be playing collegiately. However, the pair won’t be far from each other.
O’Steen will be attending St. Johns River State College in Palatka while Rawls is headed 185 miles away to the Peach State where he will play for Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia.
Rawls also played basketball for the Tigers during his senior year but couldn’t say which sport he enjoyed the most.
“I can’t choose between the two, I loved the hype in both sports,” he said.
He was the basketball team’s MVP after averaging 9.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.9 steals per game in 23 games. He finished his senior year with 77 rebounds, 65 assists, and 44 steals.
Rawls, who was a shortstop and pitcher for UCHS, was a Mainstreet Daily News All Area honorable mention selection this past spring after leading the Tigers to a district title and a Class 1A state playoffs appearance.
On the mound, he was 2-1 with a 2.84 earned run average and one save. He had 38 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 32 innings pitched.
In three years, Rawls finished his baseball career with a .358 batting average, 58 hits, and 63 runs scored.
He also finished second on the team this past season, behind O’Steen (22), with 18 stolen bases, giving him 33 in his prep career.
While it might be difficult to pick the sport he liked the most, there is no question that baseball was his future.
“Wow, one of the most naturally gifted players I’ve had a chance to be around at the high school level,” said new UCHS baseball head coach Jiwan James. “He has that ‘wow’ factor built in.
“He does things on the field that just leaves you speechless sometimes, whether it’s a superman type diving play at shortstop, or he jumps on a fastball and hits it 350 feet, and it’s like where did all that power come from in that frame?”
The shortstop and pitcher, who was an FACA All-State selection in 2021, said his favorite moment was February of his junior season.
“My favorite moment in high school was in the Baker County game,” he said. “I hit my first home run with a 3-2 count, and we took the lead and closed out the Wildcats with a 7-6 win.”
Rawls said his time in high school flew by. He stayed busy.
“One thing about my high school career was that there was never a break,” he said. “I was always active in sports and when it came to schoolwork, I was always trying to stay on top throughout the day so I could focus on sports after school.”
Now that he is moving on to the next level, Rawls can take with him something that he said he will remember the most about his high school sports career.
“I’ll always remember that you must do things the right way, every practice, every rep,” he said. “That way it comes easy during the games.”