The Licking County Settlers are in the midst of a weekend off, the first such scheduled one of the season.

The Licking County Settlers are in the midst of a weekend off, the first such scheduled one of the season.

"It's going to be nice," Jeremy Hazelbaker said after a 7-5 loss to the Stark County Terriers in the final home game of the summer last Monday at Don Edwards Park in Newark.

"We'll be hanging out, having fun I'm sure."

The players also had both a Saturday and Sunday off June 28 and 29, but that weekend's slate had called for three games, including a doubleheader. Bad weather created that break. They've played both weekend days twice, but there have been four Saturdays without a game scheduled.

"After the long spring season and everything and then going right into summer ball, you really appreciate any time off you get," said Hazelbaker, a second-year Settler from Ball State. "I'm sure we'll take advantage of it."

After the team's inaugural season in 2006, then-general manager Barry Craddock said keeping the players housed together at Denison University was one change he wouldn't make for the second year. He cited the benefits of creating bonding experiences between players coming to Licking County from all over Ohio, surrounding states and still others in the Upper Midwest and along the Eastern Seaboard.

Hazelbaker liked that aspect, but he's also enjoyed staying with a host family this summer, which was one of the key changes made by new general manager Dave Froelich.

"Me and (Sam Sivilotti of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) are staying with a family here in Newark, and (Steve Rosado of North Florida Community College) is staying with another family really close to us," Hazelbaker said.

"He'll come over and we'll do things to keep busy.

"It's not really better or worse, it's just different. They've done some cool things this year for us, like the YMCA memberships and stuff. I know I've enjoyed being here both years."

The players certainly seem to be enjoying those long bus rides, perhaps because they have more to catch up on since they are not living together this summer. The Settlers defeated the host Lima Locos 7-4 last Tuesday, the host Columbus All-Americans 7-6 last Wednesday and the host Cincinnati Steam 5-4 last Thursday, improving to 10-2 on the road. They finished 6-14 in home games, although first-year coach Kyle Sobecki attributes at least part of the road success to a simple change in routine.

"That's exactly how we played at home all year," he said after last Monday's loss, during which the Settlers loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning but failed to capitalize and one that officially kicked off a 10-game stretch of road games to end the regular season. "I can't wait to start the road trip.

"We don't take batting practice on the field before a home game, we just hit in the cages. I think it really makes a difference. We've played better defense on the road, too."

Entering last Friday's game at the Xenia Athletes in Action, the Settlers were 16-16 overall and tied for fifth place in the Great Lakes Collegiate Summer League, having won seven of 10 games in their best stretch of the summer. The top six teams qualify for the playoffs.

The Settlers close the regular season with games Monday at Lima, Tuesday at the Southern Ohio Copperheads, Thursday at Cincinnati, a doubleheader Friday at Stark County, Saturday at the Delaware Cows and Aug. 3 at Columbus.

IN THE COMMUNITY -- The team's corporate sponsors raised $15,000 for the United Way, and team owner Lou Mitchell has matched that amount.

Those funds can be seen at work in several areas, including health and wellness activities. Camp O'Bannon, which has been providing summer camp experience free of charge for referred children in Licking County since the 1920s, is another beneficiary.

"We've developed a really nice relationship between the team, the corporate sponsors and the agency," said Donna Carpenter, executive director of the Licking County United Way. "And I'm not surprised by (Mitchell's) generosity, not at all. He's been supportive of the schools here and so many other things."

This is the first year the team has sold corporate sponsorships, Froelich said. The league is funded by Major League Baseball.

Kurtis Adams can be reached at