Poland third baseman Emma Gagne, left, waits for the ball as Freeport’s Alexa Koenig slides safely into third base during last month’s Western Maine Conference softball game at Hunter Road Fields.  Times Record photo by Eric Maxim

The Poland Knights and Gray-New Gloucester Patriots know each other well, and not just because they’re located 20 minutes apart on Route 26.

The Western Maine Conference rivals will be facing each other for the fourth time in less than a calendar year when they meet in Poland for their Class B South softball preliminary.

Preliminary round softball games open statewide on Tuesday, including the sixth-seeded Knights (9-6-1) hosting the 11th-seeded Patriots (7-9) at 4:30 p.m.

Two of their previous three meetings, including the Patriots’ 4-3 win in Gray in last year’s quarterfinals, have been decided by two runs or less.

Poland won the two meetings this season, 5-3 and 14-4, but the Knights still want a measure of revenge Tuesday.

“I don’t think they want to feel the same feeling that they felt last year,” Poland co-coach Kayla Vannah said.

“This time, it will be nice that we have home field advantage,” co-coach Katrina Seeley said. “But last time we played them at home, it was still a tight game (5-3), so we have to be ready to play.”

The Knights have twice as many freshmen (four) as seniors on their roster but boast one of the more balanced teams in the region.

“We are pretty deep throughout our lineup,” Vannah said. “I think it depends on any given day who is going to step up and get our bats going and start a rally for us.”

The Patriots frequently ignite rallies by putting pressure on the opponents’ defense. Vannah believes Poland is up to the challenge.

“They’re very scrappy,” Vannah said. “They’re always up for a tight challenge, and I think that their base running is always very aggressive. We try to keep them off base as much as possible. Our defense is pretty solid throughout.”

The winner will encounter No. 3 Cape Elizabeth (14-2) in the quarterfinals. No. 2 Fryeburg awaits the winner of the prelim between No. 10 Spruce Mountain (9-7) and No. 7 Lincoln Academy (7-9).

No. 4 Oak Hill (13-3) hosts No. 5 Morse (12-4) in the only B South quarterfinal matchup that is already determined.

Quarterfinals in all classes are scheduled for Thursday.

Class A North’s quarterfinals are all set, and for the first time in over a decade, they include Mt. Blue. Top-seeded Skowhegan (16-0) welcomes the eighth-seeded Cougars (8-8), who lost twice to their Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference rivals, 5-0 and 14-4, during the regular season.

The other three quarterfinals feature KVAC teams who only faced each other in late April. No. 2 Oxford Hills (15-1) begins defense of its regional title against No. 7 Hampden Academy (6-10). The Vikings edged the Broncos, 5-4, in their only KVAC meeting in the first week of the season. No. 6 Lewiston (8-8) travels to No. 3 Bangor (11-5) in their first meeting since opening day, which the Rams won, 9-1. No. 4 Edward Little (10-6) hosts No. 5 Messalonskee (11-5) even though the Eagles prevailed in their April 24 game, 7-6.

In Class C South, Tuesday’s preliminaries feature No. 8 Dirigo (7-9) hosting No. 9 St. Dom’s (5-11) in a contest to punch a ticket to meet top-seeded Madison in the quarterfinals, and No. 10 Telstar (5-11) traveling to No. 7 Monmouth (11-5) for the right to face No. 2 Hall-Dale. The Mustangs swept their May 23 doubleheader with the Rebels, 10-2 and 7-2.

The two quarterfinals that are already determined are inter-conference clashes. No. 6 Lisbon (10-6) from the Mountain Valley Conference travels to Hiram to face WMC representative No. 3 Sacopee Valley (12-4). Another MVC team, No. 4 Winthrop (12-4), hosts KVAC neighbor Maranacook (13-3).

Buckfield earned a bye to the Class D South semifinals as the No. 2 seed. The Bucks (13-2) await the winner of the quarterfinal between No. 6 Temple Academy (6-7) and No. 3 Richmond (11-4). Defending state champion Greenville earned the top seed.