Shakopee hasn’t been to the Class 3A softball state tournament since 2011. Third baseman Hannah Mendez hopes to help the Sabers end that three-year drought in her senior season.

The past two seasons the Sabers have come up one game short of playing in the Section 2 finals. They were eliminated by Mankato West in 2013 and Prior Lake in 2014.

Shakopee is coming off a 13-9 season. It finished fifth in the now-defunct Missota Conference. The Sabers will be competing in the South Suburban Conference this year.

Here is a closer look at Mendez, who also ran cross-country for the Sabers last fall:

 

Q What is the best movie you have seen in the last year?

A “Miracle.” It’s a classic and never gets old.

 

Q Three songs you never skip on your iPod are …

A … “The Riff Off” from “Pitch Perfect”; “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran; and “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift.

 

Q Three words or phrases your friends or teammates would use to describe you are …

A … competitive, hardworking and dedicated.

 

Q How did you get started playing softball?

A I always used to play ball in the back yard with my brother and his friends when I was little.

 

Q At your first varsity practice, you were …

A … intimidated. I felt so young compared to everyone else, and didn’t want to mess up.

 

Q What is your favorite meal before a game?

A I usually don’t like to eat before games, but I’ll occasionally have some almonds.

 

Q To get focused for a game, you …

A … sing “Travelin’ Soldier” by The Dixie Chicks with my teammates while putting our cleats on.

 

Q What are your goals for the upcoming season?

A I hope to lead our softball team to the conference title and earn a trip to the state tournament.

 

Q What is your most memorable moment as a high school athlete?

A Hitting my first varsity home run [a three-run shot] during the first game of the season against Mankato West my sophomore year. We ended up winning the game 9-6 in 11 innings.

 

Q Who is your school’s biggest rival, and why?

A Prior Lake, because our games our always competitive. We are now in the same conference and always end up playing each other in the section tournament, too.

 

Q If you could change one thing about high school sports, what would it be?

A Make all games free for students, so they can support their school.

 

Q How do you balance school and sports during the year?

A I save sleep for the offseason.

 

Q Name one sport that you wish you could play, and why?

A Tennis, because I play it all the time for fun and it takes a lot of skill.

 

Q Who is your favorite college or pro sports team, and why?

A The Minnesota Twins because I love baseball and grew up watching them.

 

Q In 10 years, you hope you are …

A ... in medical school pursuing a degree in radiology.

 

Q What is the best sports advice you have ever received?

A “You can strike out twice and still have a good day.” — Tom Erickson, a softball coach in the Shakopee program.

RON HAGGSTROM