CRETE, NE — The Tigers are roaring to start the 2023 baseball season.

Head Coach Josh Oltmans says his team’s experience has given them a leg up early.

"It's fun to be able to go to those players that have been here for 2-3 years and we're able to say, 'Hey this is what you did well last year. We're going to continue to do that, but let's build on some of these strengths as well.' We were able to hit the ground running in the spring," Oltmans said.

An early season goal? To get off to a better start the last season, in which the Tigers began 2-4.

This season, that fourth loss hasn’t happened yet. The Tigers are 13-3 and have won 10 in a row heading into their home opener on Tuesday against McPherson. Doane was receiving votes but was outside the Top 25 in the preseason poll. That quick start, including a 3-1 record against teams that were in the preseason poll has vaulted Doane into the first in-season Top 25. 

That first poll was released March 8. The Tigers checked in at No. 24. It's their first Top 25 ranking since the preseason poll in 2014. 

Returning NAIA All-American honorable mention junior outfielder Joe Osborn says the veteran presence is a big reason for the quick start.

"Last year we had a lot of holes to fill," Osborn said. "Our 2021 team was a lot of older guys and then last year we had a lot of younger guys filling those roles."

Oltmans says that leadership doesn’t just come out on game day either.

"It helps on preparation and it helps in practice every single day with holding each other accountable," Oltmans said. "They know the level of what we expect here. That means every day, they know what type of work they should be getting in. Deliberate practice. It's quality."

With conference play beginning Saturday, the Tigers shift the focus from how the season started to how they want it to end.

"As a team, we want to be the first GPAC [Great Plains Athletic Conference] team ever to win three conference championships in a row in the regular season," 5th year senior catcher Jack Tillman said. "We also want to go to the NAIA World Series this year."

Last year the Tigers started GPAC play with 10 straight wins en route to a regular season conference title. If they want that historic three-peat, Tillman says they’ll need something similar this year.

"We're looking to start off just how we ended," he said. "On a hot streak. We want to get hot right away and we really don't want to stop. We just want to be hot the whole entire year."

Doane opens conference play Saturday in Crete against Dakota Wesleyan.