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Cael Bridgewater displays family’s competitive traits on multiple North Linn teams
‘He’s made himself into an awesome baseball player’
TROY MILLS — Cael Bridgewater’s competitive edge was honed at an early age.
The North Linn junior was thrust into a do-or-die household as the second of three children sandwiched between sisters, Hannah and Kenzie. Bridgewater’s dad, Brad, was a longtime wrestling coach for the Lynx and his mom, Jody, was a member of Simpson’s 1997 NCAA Division III national championship softball team.
“It’s very competitive,” Bridgewater said. “From 3 years old, I’ve been wrestling and really competitive.
“Just that environment has helped me be a better player.”
Bridgewater has made his impact as an all-state football player and two-time state medalist in wrestling. He also ranks among the state leaders in stolen bases entering third-ranked North Linn’s home doubleheader Thursday night against Tri-Rivers Conference foe East Buchanan.
“You can tell he’s a coach’s kid,” said North Linn Coach Travis Griffith, whose dad was a coach and son, Cole, is the Lynx’s right fielder. “There’s something about them. They have a little edge to them. They know just a little bit more.”
Brad was a state medalist in wrestling and track at Benton Community. Hannah, the oldest sibling, was a multisport standout who is a junior softball player at Upper Iowa. Kenzie, the youngest, was the starting second baseman for North Linn’s 2021 state softball title team and a three-time state track medalist last month.
Cael Bridgewater’s childhood was filled with epic battles, regardless of the game or activity. Naturally, there were some wrestling matches, but the ping pong table in the family’s basement hosts the notable feuds now.
“We’ll play for a couple hours,” Bridgewater said. “Those are some competitive games. I dominate.”
As valuable as his skills are, Bridgewater takes pride in leadership and being a good person outside of competition. His in-game mentality is to perform to his potential and settle for nothing less. A message emphasized from his dad.
“It’s a compete, do the best you can but don’t be satisfied thing,” Bridgewater said. “Some say a win is a win but be dominant. A win isn’t enough.”
Bridgewater admitted that he isn’t the best athlete in the family. Who has the rightful claim to that distinction?
“Mom,” Bridgewater said. “She’s a national softball champion. That’s the fair answer.”
Bridgewater entered Thursday with a .429 batting average and .547 on-base percentage. He had 18 hits, including two doubles and a triple, and 22 runs. Bridgewater scores 69 percent of the time he reaches base.
Once he’s on base, he wreaks havoc. Bridgewater has 25 stolen bases in 26 attempts, trailing only Austin Hilmer, who had 27. Teammate Mason Bechen is third in the state with 24. Griffith noted Bridgewater is overshadowed by Hilmer and Bechen by some and that he can turn a walk or single into a triple with his speed and knack for stolen bases.
Bridgewater also owns a 2-0 mark as a pitcher, throwing 9 1/3 innings with 10 strikeouts and a 1.50 earned-run average.
“He’s made himself into an awesome baseball player,” Griffith said. “He was an athlete that just played baseball. Now, he’s learning the things that baseball players do.”
North Linn was 14-1 overall and 6-0 in the TRC before the East Buchanan opener. The Lynx are looking for their sixth state appearance and first since 2020. The focus is on the short term as they build for that long-term goal.
“We don’t talk about it,” Bridgewater said. “We know the expectations are to get to Carroll and play two to three games while we’re there.”