LINCOLN, NE – Two former Bellevue University baseball players will help anchor the bullpen for the Lincoln Saltdogs in 2018. Left-handed pitcher Kyle Kinman, an Omaha Northwest High School graduate, and right-handed pitcher Leland Tilley both signed with the Saltdogs in March.
Kinman heads back to the Cornhusker state after spending three seasons in the Braves’ system. Most recently, he pitched for Double-A Mississippi in 2016 and went 1-2 with a 3.07 ERA over 13 appearances. The southpaw pitched at three different levels for the Braves in 2015. He managed 18 saves with a 2.09 ERA over 44 relief appearances. Kinman struck out 65 batters over 51.2 innings to post an incredible 11.3 K/9 ratio.
Kinman was one of the best NAIA players in the county during his two seasons with Bellevue University. In his senior season, Kinman went 8-4 with a 1.85 ERA. He posted seven complete games in his 13 starts for the Bruins. Most impressively, Kinman fanned 141 batters over 92.1 innings, the highest strikeout total in NAIA. He earned the NAIA Player of the Week award after collecting 22 whiffs in one game against the College of the Ozarks. Kinman also led the Bruins in six offensive categories while playing in all 59 games. His two-way success earned him Conference Pitcher of the Year, Honorable Mention All-American and captain of the Omaha World Herald All-Nebraska NAIA team honors.
Kinman was a Second-Team All-State player at Omaha Northwest.
Tilley was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He pitched in 18 games for Rookie League Johnson City in 2016, compiling a 2-0 record and a 3.09 ERA. The Californian moved up to Single-A in 2017. Combining his time between State College and Peoria, Tilley was 1-0 with a 0.55 ERA in 22 relief appearances. He surrendered just two earned runs on 15 hits over 33 innings.
Tilley spent three years with the Bellevue (NE) Bruins program at the NAIA level. The right-hander excelled as a senior in 2016, earning First-Team All-NSAAA and First-Team Omaha World Herald All-Nebraska honors. He appeared in a team-high 25 games while posting a 10-1 record with nine saves. Tilley managed a 2.43 ERA and struck out 43 batters.
The Saltdogs got valuable contributions from two former Bellevue players last season. Matty Johnson played center field for much of the year while Ben McKendall made a handful of spot starts for the team.
The Saltdogs are set to begin their 18th season in Lincoln on Thursday, May 17th. The team is coming off of a 58-41 season in which they won the American Association’s Central Division Championship. The ‘Dogs play home games at Haymarket Park, which has been named the “Best Playing Field” in the league for 17 straight seasons.