SANFORD — Sometimes it’s not easy for even a coach to figure out how his or her team will do in the season.

Take Sanford High’s second-year softball coach Michael Bailey for instance.

His Spartans will enter the Western Class A softball tournament ranked third with a 14-2 record, their only losses to No. 1 Scarborough (6-1) and No. 2 Thornton Academy (11-9 in nine innings).

Yet, few people saw that coming, even Bailey. Oh, he figured his team – which finished out of the playoffs a year ago with a 6-10 record – could make the playoffs this year but …

“If you told me at the beginning of the season that we’d be where we are now, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Bailey before a recent practice. “But these girls have worked hard and they’ve done everything they’ve needed to do to get better.”

And the Spartans are confident they can get even better in the playoffs.

“I think we have a good chance,” said pitcher Jen Jones. “I wouldn’t go in with any other team.”

And any team would welcome Jones on its staff.

The power-throwing right-hander was named the Gatorade Maine Softball Player of the Year last week. A junior, she has a 14-2 record with a 1.41 ERA, 213 strikeouts in 114 innings, and only 77 hits and 36 walks allowed. She also batted .444 with 23 RBI.

Catcher Emily Begin, the only senior on the team, said Jones’ stats are “crazy, just crazy. She’s incredible. She deserves all the praise.”

But Jones, typically, will not take any of the credit for Sanford’s turnaround.

“We’re not a team that has like three good players that they’re what you have to watch,” said Jones. “Everyone is a good player. And if somebody is off the other person pulls their weight. There’s not really a person (that another team) can pinpoint … it’s a team effort and everyone does their job well.”

Thornton Academy Coach John Provost said Sanford’s resurgence shouldn’t be entirely surprising.

“Well, we knew they had Jenny Jones,” said Provost. “And I had a feeling they’d be around because a good pitcher can keep you in a whole lot of games. And I think this year she just turned it up a notch and they were a year older and they started making the plays.”

Defensively, the Spartans are consistently strong. They don’t give many extra outs. Offensively, they have been a team of clutch hitters.

Up and down the batting order, every game has provided an opportunity for someone new to step up. As a team, Sanford batted .357 with a slugging percentage of .504.

Center fielder and leadoff hitter Nicole Main is hitting .531 with 25 runs scored, five triples, two home runs and 13 RBI. Right fielder Isabelle Johnston is batting .451 with 11 runs and 11 RBI. Left fielder Jordan Wilson is batting .373 with 13 RBI and 13 runs. First baseman Morgan Coleman is hitting .360 with 16 RBI and 10 runs.

“Everyone takes their turn,” said Bailey. “It just seems like every game it’s someone different coming through in a clutch situation. This year they’ve done everything they need to do to get better.”

That’s because, said Begin, they didn’t want to go through last year again.

“No one likes to be in that position, where you win only six games,” she said. “We were young last year and I think one year later has matured us as a team. We’ve stepped up.”

Main said the Spartans simply weren’t confident enough last year. Many of this year’s juniors were starting as sophomores and they were still learning to play at the varsity level.

“I just think we didn’t have enough confidence,” said Main. “I don’t think that we believed we could win. But we grew as a team from last year.”

Bailey said playing together last summer helped bring the team closer. And Begin can attest to that.

She said “this is the closest high school team, friendship-wise, I’ve ever played on. Every coach wants his players to hang out together. But we’re really close. And I think that’s a big part of our success.”

Jones noticed how close this team is as well.

“We just bonded this year,” she said. “Really, just everyone. Last year we were all good players. This year we really clicked and work well together.”

Now, said Bailey, the Spartans have more work to do.

“I’ve got to say there were some people around here last year that were not happy with missing the playoffs, and I could see that in their willingness to work and work hard to get in the playoffs,” he said. “We’ve kind of flown under the radar for a while. Now people know about us but we still don’t have the continuing legacy of a Scarborough or a South Portland or Biddeford, Thornton.

“We’re trying to build a tradition around here where we just do our job and day by day do what we need to do to get better.”