AUBURN — Poland’s patience outscored Gray-New Gloucester’s patience in the rivals’ season-opening baseball tilt at Central Maine Community College on Thursday.

The Knights took the lead with four runs on bases-loaded walks in the top of the sixth inning and held on for an 8-6 win over the Patriots.

Poland coach Charlie Pray said the patience was uncommon for a season opener.

“I absolutely think so,” he said. “I also think we’re a pretty aggressive team … I think we just did a good job of responding to the situation that was in front of us.”

Poland pitcher Hunter Gibson and Gray-New Gloucester’s Ian Libby each had solid first starts, but both teams’ bullpens struggled to hit the strike zone.

The Knights battled back from an early 3-0 deficit to tie the game in the top of the third, but the Patriots regained the lead in the bottom half of the inning when Austin Albert scored on Libby’s sacrifice, making it 4-3.

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Libby reached his pitch-count limit with one out and two runners on base in the top of the sixth. After Patriots reliever Andrew Reynolds got the second out, the Knights drew five consecutive walks, bringing home Lagan O’Driscoll for the tying run, Aiden MacFawn for the go-ahead score, and then Gene Grant and Mitchell Bean for insurance runs and a 7-4 Poland lead.

The Knights finished with 14 walks in the game.

According to Poland’s pregame plan, Gibson (three strikeouts) was replaced on the mound after four innings. Reliever Adam Gwarjanski quickly got in a jam, allowing two walks and a single to load the bases with no outs. He got out of the inning unscathed, however, with three straight outs.

“They capitalized, and we didn’t,” Gray-New Gloucester coach Jon DiBiase said. “We had the bases loaded … no outs, and we did not capitalize, so that’s the difference in the game, I think.”

Gray-NG loaded the bases again against Gwarjanski with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Colin Mulry scored on a hit by pitch, and Jake Maschino came home on a passed ball to cut Poland’s lead to 7-6.

Aggressiveness, rare in the late innings of Thursday’s game, earned the Knights an insurance run in the top of the seventh.

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Gwarjanksi led off with a walk, and later scored from second base on a passed ball.

While patience won the season-opener, Gwarjanski’s play exemplifies the type of team the Knights strive to be this season.

“I think that’s a lot of what we’re trying to be, is aggressive on the bases,” Pray said. “Adam’s coming to third, he’s not stopping, he’s picking (the third base) coach up, and we just realized it’s a good time to try and take the opportunity, and try it, and it worked out for us.”

Pray also said he was proud of the Knights for not wilting when Gray-New Gloucester’s offense got off to a strong start and took a 3-0 lead in the first.

Patriots leadoff batter Albert doubled over the left fielder and scored on a single by Anthony Prescott. Three batters later, Mike Sweeney’s single to right field was misplayed. Prescott scored from second and Sweeney rounded all of the bases to give Gray-NG an early 3-0 lead.

“We jumped right on a couple of fastballs,” DiBiase said. “And then, I feel like, we lost some of that intensity with the bat, and Hunter just hit some spots and pitched really well, I thought.”

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Gibson said the Knights weren’t fretting too much about falling into an early hole.

“With our guys on offense and our bats, the first inning, so much time left, I’m not going to get worried about that at all,” Gibson said.

The Knights got one of those runs back in the top of the second when Gwarjanski scored from third on a passed ball.

“For the first game, getting down right away and being able to know that we’re not going to get it all back at once — getting one run was huge,” Pray said. “And building upon that, tying them up, and then it just became a battle.”

Poland tied the game at 3-3 in the third. Gibson singled home Mitchell Bean and then scored on a sacrifice by Grady Hart.

“In the past, we haven’t been able to come back and battle adversity like that, and to see us on the first game do that, it means a lot,” Gibson said.

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Gwarjanski earned the win. Hart pitched a scoreless third to notch a save.

Gray-New Gloucester’s top to hitters were particularly productive. Austin, the leadoff hitter, was 3 for 3 with a double and two runs, and No. 2 hitter Anthony Prescott finished 2 for 2 with an RBI and a run.

Libby, tagged with the loss, struck out seven batters in 5 1/3 innings.

Despite the loss, DiBiase was happy to see proof of the improvement the Patriots have made since last season, when they had the worst regular season record in Class B South before upsetting top-seeded Yarmouth in the playoffs. Last season, Poland routed Gray-NG in both ends of a doubleheader, 18-7 and 13-1.

“Last year, these guys beat us by 15, or something like that. So, hey, we’re better than we were last year,” DiBiase said. “Good start.”

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