WORTHINGTON -- As the summer heats up, so do the players on Worthington’s four summer girls softball teams.

Girls can begin as young as 8 years old on the 10U squad. There is also a 12U team, a 14U team and an 18U team.

For players considering Worthington summer softball, opportunity still exists. And a good place to inquire is with Rachel Ponto (call 507-360-1842), president of the Worthington Girls Softball Association.

“I feel like our numbers have gone down this year. And I don’t know why,” she said this week. “It’s really all around. We’re struggling for umpires this year, and we’re struggling for coaches. The 18U players are going to be coaching themselves most of the time.”

There are currently nine girls on the 10U team, a baker’s dozen on the 12U team, half a dozen on the 14U team (where several 12U girls play up), and 15 girls on the 18U team.

Old-time softball players in Worthington can recall that softball, generally, has dipped in popularity over the years. Just 30 years ago there were many teams involved in church league slow pitch, coed slow pitch, commercial league women’s and men’s slow-pitch, and men’s fast-pitch softball, too. Not any more.

Young athletes have more opportunities than they did back in the glory years. Jobs, other sports, video games. In the 80s, video games were much less of an option.

“The kids are pulled (today). There’s basketball in the summer, there’s volleyball in the summer. They’re just pulled,” said Ponto. “Our 18s, a lot of them work.”

For those who play, the rewards are special. Much of that comes from playing against other towns.

“You get to see different pitchers. The girls just seem to have a lot of fun going to different ball fields and playing on different ball fields. And we go up against some really good teams,” Ponto said.

Rules are adjusted for the league. In the 10U league, pitchers deliver their offerings from a shorter distance, players can only advance one base on an overthrow, and a dropped third strike is considered an out.

Ponto said a lot of the girls are good hitters. On the 12U team, for instance, Mercedes Myers, Marissa Becker, Hannah McNab, Bailey Ponto and Madison Peterson all can put the hurt on a round sphere.

Through mid-week, the Worthington 18U team has only played two games in the 2019 summer schedule, in part due to rainy weather. But players are hoping to get a doubleheader in on Thursday, at home against Sleepy Eye beginning at 6 p.m.

Leaders on the 18U team include pitcher-utility player Stephanie Kazemba, pitcher-first baseman Sydney Ponto and infielder-outfielder Brittin Fauskee.