As the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate Baseball League opened another season this month, the Delaware Cows put last year's hiatus behind them.

As the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate Baseball League opened another season this month, the Delaware Cows put last year's hiatus behind them.

With team budgets running upwards of $100,000, the recession's toll continued to add up, forcing the Cows to depart the wood bat league last summer and reorganize its finances.

The Cows, founded in 1991, play their home games at Ohio Wesleyan's Littick Field.

"It was really tough to raise money, find host families for the players and get the players jobs," board member Randy McClain said. "The bats alone cost anywhere from $5,000-$6,000. Anytime one breaks, it's like ripping up a $100 bill. But we've pushed through it because we all love baseball."

Even the nation's premiere Cape Cod Baseball League watched sponsorships disappear. Under Armour, which bankrolled the league's all-star game with $40,000, dropped out this year.

McClain and others spent much of last year beating the bushes to find ways to raise money. Bus transportation and coaches' salaries account for much of the team's expenses, according to Bruce Heine, director of baseball operations for the Cows.

"We've had to get smarter out of necessity," he said. "I think the league is stronger than ever. Last year, Hamilton entered a team and they've got the whole community behind them. They're on local television and they're getting 600-700 people to games."

Like other summer collegiate baseball teams, the Cows' mission is to help develop NCAA players who wish to continue into the big leagues. The team won league championships in 1998 and 2001 and two years ago, a half-dozen Delaware players were drafted.

This year's roster includes a number of central Ohio players in Evan Shaw (Ohio Dominican), Zach Frentsos (Ohio Wesleyan), Matt Streng (Ohio State), Tim Knezovich (Ohio Wesleyan), Ryan Meade (Lamar), Tyler Backstrom (Ohio) and Ben Trimbur (Ohio).

Pitchers John LaCorte (Otterbein) and Lance Kingrey (Miami) are currently rehabbing injuries and could join the team later.

"We got off to a late start, so that made it very hard in getting our roster together," coach Dave Koblentz said. Koblentz worked for the Cleveland Indians for six seasons as a short-season pitching coach and scouting supervisor after spending 19 seasons at West High School.

"The guys are sent to us to work on their weaknesses," Koblentz said. "It's a good team, but we don't have a lot of depth on the mound, and it's been tough playing 10 games in nine days. The primary thing is getting guys to look forward to coming to the park."

The Cows were 4-5 before last Sunday's trip to Hamilton. The schedule allowed for a three-day break prior to today's game at Lake Erie.

Delaware returns home for four consecutive games against Licking County (Friday), Lexington (Saturday), Xenia (Sunday) and Hamilton (Wednesday). Admission is $2.

"Littick Field doesn't have lights, so our midweek games have to get started earlier," McClain said. "It's tough to draw fans for a 5 p.m. game during the week. We're hoping some new advertising might generate more interest, but we're very blessed to have the sponsors that we have now."