As is his custom, Joe Henrikson didn’t say much about his Cape Elizabeth softball team when approached in the preseason, other than the Capers would be young and relying on some inexperienced players.

Well, with less than a week to go in the regular season, the Capers certainly have earned some respect. Entering Wednesday’s game with Falmouth — a big Heal point contest for both squads — Cape Elizabeth was ranked seventh in Western Class B with a chance to move up in the standings. The Capers (10-3) had won six straight since losing to top-ranked Fryeburg Academy 9-2 on May 11.

“We’re battling every game,” said Henrikson. “We’re not blowing anyone out. We’re playing tough defense. The pitchers are throwing strikes. The kids don’t quit. They’re tough. I’m really pleased with how the season has gone.”

Henrikson uses five sophomores and a freshman (catcher/shortstop Ashley Tinsman) regularly. The biggest thing he had to do was to get the young players to believe they could compete with the top teams.

“I think we can compete,” he said.

While senior left fielder Lexie Cantara (.467) and Tinsman (.450) lead the hitting, Henrikson said the offense comes from everyone.

“My philosophy is pitching and defense, if the other team can’t score, it can’t win,” he said. “Then we just try to put something together, a hit, a walk, a bunt. We just try to get a run here and there, and it’s usually three kids doing it.”

Sophomores Anna Goldstein and Katie Rabasca share the pitching. And Henrikson believes they have come a long way in a short time.

“I tell them to throw strikes and let the defense help them,” he said. “When the kids behind them start making plays, they get confident and they’re not afraid to pound the strike zone.”

JILL BRADBURY, the senior first baseman/pitcher for Oceanside’s top-ranked Eastern Class B Mariners, doesn’t get to pitch often with Rachel Frye locked in as the No. 1 pitcher. But when she does

Bradbury had a big week last week, throwing a five-inning perfect game in a 13-0 win over Morse last Friday (striking out three) and followed with a four-hit 12-1 win over MCI on Saturday, when she struck out nine.

Those were the first two wins of the season for Bradbury, who is hitting .385 with a team-high 20 runs.

Coach Rusty Worcester said, “She’s a player who, whatever it takes to get her team a victory, she will do it.”

ROBBIE FERRANTE, the coach at McAuley, didn’t mince words when he said Wednesday’s game at Massabesic “is our playoff game.”

The Lions (5-9) entered the game in 12th spot in Western Class A — .625 Heal points behind Marshwood (which is 6-8 and beat McAuley 10-0 early in the season) for the final playoff berth.

“But if you told me early on that I’d be where I am right now,” he said, “I’d be happy.”

THE NO. 1 SEED in Western Class B likely will be decided next Wednesday when top-ranked Fryeburg Academy plays at No. 2 Greely at 4 p.m. While both teams have games before it — Fryeburg is at Freeport today (a change in the schedule) and Greely plays York and Poland — Fryeburg Coach Fred Apt doesn’t believe either team will be caught looking ahead.

“Both teams are really focused,” he said. “They have similar goals and they’re working toward them.

“The one thing that we have done a good job with is staying focused on one game at a time. I don’t even really have to say it to my kids. They know that anybody can beat us and we better be ready to play. Freeport is fighting for a playoff spot, they have a good pitcher and they’re well coached.”

The Raiders have received a big boost from sophomore first baseman Kylie Locke, who has settled into the No. 5 slot in the batting order behind Carla Tripp, Maddie Pearson, Maggie McConkey and Sarah Harriman — a feared first four.

“I wasn’t sure who our first baseman was going to be this year, even after our (preseason) Connecticut trip,” said Apt. “But she really has stepped up.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH