By: Shelby Dermer (Cannons' broadcaster and beat writer)
WINCHESTER, VIRGINIA-- The Purcellville Cannons dropped to 3-15 on the road this season with their third consecutive loss at Jim Barnett Park, 14-5, on Tuesday night at the hands of the Winchester Royals, who clinched a playoff spot with their 21st victory of the year.
Winchester broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the third inning with six consecutive hits off Cannons' starter Matt Copley, including a grand slam home run by first baseman Spencer Levine to give the Royals a 6-0 lead. It was Levine's second bases-loaded bomb against Purcellville this season.
Copley was charged with all six runs and was handed his second loss in his shortest start of the summer. In two starts against Winchester, Copley is 0-1 with an 11.25 ERA, compared to a 1-1 record and a 2.57 earned run average in three starts against the rest of the VBL.
The Cannons got on the board with back-to-back 2-out RBI singles by Eriq White and Wade Arduini in the top of the fourth to make it a 6-2 game, but Winchester responded with five more runs off Purcellville reliever Colin Benner in the bottom of the frame to take a 9-run advantage.
Winchester left-hander Joey Jones improved to 4-0 on the season, allowing three earned runs over six innings of work.
Cannons' third baseman Tyler Ratliff hit his second home run of the season in the loss, knocking a towering 2-run blast off reliever Devon Stubbings in the top of the seventh to cut the deficit to six. Ratliff's bomb was the first long ball by a Cannon since PJ Harris hit a solo shot in the team's 7-3 loss at Staunton on July 3rd.
After Cannons' reliever Andrew Green struck out a season-high seven batters in 2 1/3 scoreless innings, Winchester capped off the game's scoring on a 3-run home run by outfielder Luke Parker off Mike Tang in the bottom of the eighth.
The 14 runs and 22 hits allowed by the Cannons on Tuesday were both season-highs.
With the loss, the Cannons (14-22) lose a half game in the postseason race and now trail the New Market Rebels (15-21) by a game for the fourth and final playoff spot in the north division.
Purcellville now aims for their fourth road victory of the season when they travel to Charlottesville to take on the Tom Sox (11-23) on Wednesday night, a team that sits in the cellar of the VBL south with a winning percentage of 0.324.
Left-hander Zach Sloan will make his return to the Cannons' rotation after missing his previous start due to elbow stiffness. Sloan hasn't pitched since July 7th when he was handed a loss, allowing six runs (three earned) over a 3-inning span in a 10-6 defeat to New Market. Sloan is 1-2 with a 3.68 ERA in five starts this summer. In his season-debut, the Canisius College product threw six scoreless innings in a no-decision against Charlottesville on June 4th, a 5-0 Tom Sox' victory at Fireman's Field.
Right-hander Matthew Sullivan gets the nod for the Tom Sox, who sit just two games back in their own playoff chase. Sullivan's last outing was his best, a 6-inning shutout of the Staunton Braves on July 12th in a 10-2 Chrarlottesville victory. Sullivan is 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA in five starts this season.