Joey Murray has never lost the desire to continue playing baseball, even when circumstances worked against him at perhaps the most inopportune time.
Just before his junior season for Dublin Coffman High School, the 6-foot-2 right-handed pitcher lost an opportunity to impress college scouts because of a stomach virus that began in January 2014 and lingered into that spring.
Murray lost about 25 pounds as a result of the illness and never felt 100 percent that season, despite throwing a no-hitter and going 3-1 with a 1.57 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings.
Murray, who went 5-2 with 45 strikeouts as a sophomore, got noticed by college scouts during the fall of his senior year and landed a scholarship offer from Kent State.
After back-to-back seasons starring for the Golden Flashes, he now is weighing a professional future.
On June 5, Murray was selected in the eighth round (236th overall) of the Major League Baseball draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.
"My sophomore year (in high school), I played on varsity and people were telling me I'd have the opportunity to play in college," he said. "I had a stomach virus my junior year and (my doctors) weren't really sure what it was, but it kind of just faded away. It was kind of a freak thing. Things have definitely come around the way I was hoping. There's been a couple bumps in the road, but for the most part, I'm happy with how things are going.
"I really never gave up on playing college baseball. I believed in myself day one and I worked even harder and did everything I could to make my dream possible. I was willing to do anything I could to prolong my career."
As a senior in 2015, Murray put together one of the best seasons by a Coffman pitcher, going 8-1 with a 0.10 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 69 innings.
The Shamrocks finished 19-8 that season, falling to Pickerington North 2-1 in 12 innings in a Division I district semifinal in which Murray went 10 innings, striking out 12 and throwing 110 pitches.
"He pitched a perfect game his senior year against Hilliard Davidson, which was the first one in Dublin schools history," Coffman coach Tim Saunders said. "He also pitched 10 innings in his last game versus Pickerington North at Marysville in the district semifinals. ... I've never coached in a game when I saw a pitcher throw so few pitches and do so well over that time span. Joey will go down as one of the best pitchers ever to graduate from any of the Dublin schools."
As a freshman at Kent State in 2016, Murray went 2-1 with a 3.69 ERA in 12 appearances, including six starts, and pitched in a Mid-American Conference tournament game, recording 11 strikeouts in eight innings.
In his sophomore season with the Golden Flashes, he went 6-1 with a 1.80 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 75 innings and was named MAC Pitcher of the Year and a second-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
Still, Murray believed he could hit another level.
"Last year, I was getting into deep counts consistently, so my one big thing this year was that I wanted to go deeper into games and keep my pitch count down," Murray said. "My main focus in the first couple innings has been to get strike one right away, then strike two and just try to get them out as quick as possible, and if I get two strikes, just put them away."
Murray's fastball usually ranges between 88-90 mph, although he was told he hit 93 mph during the middle of this season with the Golden Flashes. His repertoire includes a slider, curveball and changeup.
This spring, he set the MAC single-season mark for strikeouts with 141 in 95 2/3 innings and again was named conference Pitcher of the Year while going 9-2 with a 2.45 ERA in 16 starts.
He credits Kent State pitching coach Mike Birkbeck, a six-year Major League veteran who went 10-8 with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1988, with taking him "to a whole new level mind-wise on the mound, how to sequence pitches, what to throw in different situations and a lot of the mental game."
Murray gave up eight earned runs in just one inning as Kent State lost to Louisville 12-6 in the NCAA regional June 3 to end its season at 40-18, but that was one of just two starts all spring in which he didn't go at least five innings.
Murray also played in the New England Collegiate League in the summer of 2016 and in the Cape Cod League last summer.
"Joey has always been a hard-working person that listens to coaching very well," Saunders said. "He fell in love with pitching at an early age and was fine being a pitcher-only in high school and not playing other positions. He went from a chunky guy in middle school to a lanky athlete by the time he graduated. He became more confident in himself and his abilities each year and that continues through college and hopefully beyond. ... He has done so well with his opportunities. He has set many records (at Kent State) and they've had several Major League pitchers come out of their program."