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Pan twins help fuel Junior Blaze
The black-rimmed glasses are gone, they have shot up in height and added some muscle to their wiry frames.
Those are some of the noticeable changes at first glance at twin brothers Yi-An and Yi-Fan Pan.
Three years ago, the twin brothers played key roles in helping the Langley All-Stars advance to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. as the Canadian national champions.
Back then, the brothers were tall and lanky, standing five-foot-10 but weighing just 115 pounds apiece.
But as is the case with most teenagers, they are developing into their bodies, now carrying about 165 pounds on their six-foot-one frames.
And the brothers find themselves as vital cogs once again in their team’s success, this time with the Langley Blaze U16 baseball program.
Heading into this weekend’s regular season finale, the Blaze had clinched top spot in the B.C. Junior Premier Baseball League with a record of 37-5.
The Blaze finish off the regular season with a pair of road games on July 30 and Aug. 2.
Yi-Fan is the ace of the Blaze staff, sporting an 8-0 record — with five complete games — an 0.78 earned run average and 32 strikeouts in 53.2 innings pitched.
At the plate, Yi-Fan is hitting .337 with 13 RBIs in 89 at-bats.
Yi-An has pitched less this season, primarily playing short-stop and second base. He has made just two starts on the mound and three appearances, going 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA and nine strikeouts in 14 innings. Offensively, he is hitting .315 with 24 RBIs in 130 at-bats.
“I am not surprised (by their success),” said Langley coach Brad Kemp.
“I knew they were good ball players coming to us.
“With the work ethic they have and the baseball IQ they have, success is just going to come with it.”
While success has come instantly for the pair, hard work has been one of the dominating factors in their success.
“All the guys are bigger and faster,” Yi-An said.
“The (Blaze) program is amazing. The coaches know a lot and teach us and we just try and learn and have fun.”
“I have learned if you want to be great, you have to work hard,” Yi-Fan added.
“There are a lot of great hitters out there and you can’t just throw fastballs by anyone anymore. They can all hit.”
Every game Yi-Fan has taken the mound this season, he has pitched into the sixth inning and won.
But he is quick to deflect the credit.
“After gaining the weight, I feel stronger,” he said.
“And the catchers have been calling good games and I have been throwing lots of strikes and hitting my spots.
“I am not giving up free bases and am making the hitters earn their runs and their hits.”
He has walked just nine of the 213 batters he has faced this season.
Yi-An is tied for second on the team with 24 RBIs.
“I have made a lot of hitting adjustments with my coaches and they have taught us about situational hitting,” he explained. “(With) different situations you will have different approaches and you just try to make contact and get on base.”
The brothers admit they are competitive with each other, but they are also very supportive of one another and willing to work on their game away from the ballpark.
“It is great, we can talk about what we learned and at home, we can do drills together,” Yi-An said.
“We can do a lot of drills that other people can’t.”
The Blaze have already wrapped up a spot in next week’s provincial championships in Victoria.
And after that, the Pans will work on their next goal: earning a spot with the U18 Blaze Premier team program.
They have each played in a handful of games with the squad this past season.
Yi-An has had seven at-bats and hit .286 with a pair of RBIs. He has also pitched a couple of innings, striking out two of the nine batters he has faced while not allowing a hit.
His brother has faced a pair of batters, retiring them both, while getting two hits in five at-bats (.400 average).
“The goal with the junior team is to develop them for the next level, which is the senior team,” Kemp said.
“And from there, I see no reason (why) both of them can’t be college players. And once you get to college, anything can happen.”
Dan Ferguson/Langley Times
Yi-Fan Pan delivers the pitch for the Langley Junior Blaze.