Catching up with: Cammy Pereira
Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 16, 2022
Pereira graduated from West Forsyth in 2016 after helping the softball team win the NCHSAA 4-A state championship
Editor’s note: The Courier will be doing a series of stories on former West Forsyth athletes now in college during the summer months. We hope you enjoy catching up with them.
By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier
Cammy Pereira was always a beam of sunlight that shone as she played for four years on the West Forsyth softball team.
She culminated her career at West Forsyth with a state championship in 2016, initially went to Furman to play, and then she transferred to finish her career at Clemson, which advanced to the NCAA Super Regional in Stillwater, Oklahoma, against Oklahoma State last month.
Even though it’s been six years since she graduated from West Forsyth, Pereira, who is now 24, is just as upbeat about life now as she was then, even though she’s had some trials and tribulations along the way.
“She’s just one of those coach’s dreams,” Coach Kevin Baity of West Forsyth said. “She’s one from her freshman year on she’d do anything that a coach asks. Her work ethic is second to none. She’s just a 100% team player.
“She’s just one that always — she’s just easy to like. She’s a good person that cares about everybody.”
In the Titans’ march to an NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship in 2016 many of Pereira’s teammates went beyond calling her a close teammate. They referred to her as a mother-like figure.
“Some people just have that gift,” Baity said. “I think that sort of came from her being the one that would make decisions on where they were going to eat, what they were going to do pre-game, always to keep everybody loose.
“Now for me, she was the one that, probably since her freshman year, if somebody wanted me to remember something they knew just to tell Cammy, and Cammy would end up texting me to remind me because my memory is not very good.”
It hasn’t always been sunshine for Pereira. She started feeling pain in her right arm her senior year of high school, and after having already signed to play at Furman, she had to sit out her freshman year with a torn labrum and torn biceps in her arm.
“Right after West I went to Furman to begin my softball career,” she said. “I had a great three years there and decided that I wanted to play at a higher level. I knew there was an opportunity at Clemson with a new program starting that I just thought would be really cool to be a part of that.”
Clemson didn’t have a softball program until 2020.
“I started looking at just a lot of other ACC schools once I got in the transfer portal,” Pereira said. “I wanted to, of course, stay close to home, and to be able to play in a Power-5 conference. So that was really my goal whenever I left Furman.
“Clemson was a great opportunity for me, again, just to help start the program.
So that was awesome and that added a lot to my softball career. I got to participate in (NCAA) regionals, we got to host a regional this year and go to Super Regionals. And (those were) all things I didn’t really anticipate even getting to experience in my softball career.”
Baity watched her career in college, whether that was at Furman or at Clemson.
“I think she’s dealt with a lot of adversity anyway,” Baity said. “And she’s one that knows how to deal with it, is able to handle situations better than others.
“She’s always had her stuff together — when it comes to academics, just being able to play sports. She played with a travel team that traveled all the time, all over the country. But she was always able to keep her academics up. That’s tough on a lot of athletes.”
Immediately upon stepping on the campus at Furman, Pereira had shoulder surgery.
“I had shoulder surgery, which ended up giving me a redshirt year,” she said. “Which turned out to be a good thing. So, I had a redshirt year from that and I had a redshirt year from the COVID year (2020). I was at Furman for three (years), and when I transferred with the idea that I was only going to have two years — my senior year and my fifth year (at Clemson).
“And we were granted our COVID year I didn’t necessarily know if I was going to take it at the time. I applied for medical school last year and got accepted. And so, I was just planning to go to medical school this past year, and then I changed my mind towards the end of the season. I just didn’t want to regret it, not playing that last year. And I knew med school was going to be there, kind of waiting for me.”
She was accepted in med school at Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. She has that coming up shortly, but for the past couple years, Pereira had a chance to shine on the field for the Tigers — and play healthy while doing it.
“I deferred my acceptance to medical school until this summer, and so I used my sixth year of eligibility to play at Clemson,” she said.
Despite being in its infancy during the 2020 season, Clemson was 18-9 overall and 5-1 in the ACC before the season was halted because of COVID.
“I’m really thankful we got another year,” Pereira said. “That was hard for us specifically at Clemson because that was our first year of the program. So, there was so much buildup, so much hype around the season. And we came out really, really strong. I kind of wished we could’ve seen what happened at the end of that year with just it being our first year, but allowing me to have an extra year at Clemson was definitely one of the best things to come out of it.
“Being there and helping build that program was one of the most special things in my softball career.”
Another thing that sealed the deal for Pereira going to Clemson was that her head coach at Furman, Kyle Jamieson, left Furman to become the assistant head coach at Clemson, alongside Head Coach John Rittman.
In 2020, Pereira played all 27 games at second base, and she also hit leadoff. She finished hitting .298 with 10 RBIs in her first season with the Tigers before the season was halted. In her second year, last year for the Tigers, Pereira really started to flourish. She batted .295 in 132 at-bats, with 21 runs, three doubles, two triples, three home runs and had a slugging percentage of .417 with a .324 on-base percentage. She hit two homers against Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. And she was no slouch in the classroom either. She finished All-ACC Academic Honor Roll.
“There was definitely still questions in the air (about last year with COVID),” Pereira said. “We knew that we going to have some sort of season. We didn’t know what stands (spectators) were going to look like. That was really a lot of my decision to come back for my sixth year was because the fifth year was still a little bit not normal.
“When we traveled, we didn’t get to see our parents outside right after games. We didn’t get to hang out with one another much. We had to stay in our roommate pairings. Everything was just a little different. We didn’t have as much of a crowd. And we knew what the potential was for the crowd after the first year. So, it was little disappointing just to have that. I think that another big push for me to stay for my sixth year was just knowing what the possibility of normalcy looked like, and just kind of wanting to be a part of that on the team. For one last year, not having to experience that in that in the stands, what if I would’ve been here, this would’ve been so much fun and not have regrets or anything.”
In its first full season last year, Clemson finished 44-8 overall and 29-5 in the ACC and played in an NCAA Regional in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
“Last year was definitely challenging,” Pereira said. “I was on a very, very good team, and playing with really good players. We have some really, really talented players and I definitely think they pushed me to be better and play at the level I played at. But last year was definitely the harder year.”
Despite the team’s success, Pereira saw that she had some areas of improvement.
“I struggled with my hitting last year,” she said. “We played good competition at a higher level. but not as good a competition as played this year. I’m really glad that I kind of had that year to struggle and work through some things. And this year, I was really happy with how I hit and how I performed against big teams this year, and just how I was able to help and lead my team, not necessarily on field. Just to be the leader.”
Before the end of last season Pereira had already decided to defer her acceptance to med school in order to play at Clemson this past season.
“I decided my Senior Day, which was our last home game, so before the ACC Tournament and before regionals last year,” she said. “I had already decided because I had to make the decision to be able to tell my medical school that I was going to defer my acceptance.”
It turned out to be the right decision for Pereira to stay. Pereira finished this season with a .287 batting average with 52 hits, including seven doubles, two triples, and five homers, with 35 runs and had 27 RBIs. She had a .361 on-base percentage, and she had 13 walks and eight hit-by-pitches. Defensively, she turned nine double plays for a team that finished 42-17 overall and 14-10 in the ACC. In addition, she won the Weaver-James postgraduate scholarship, which is presented by the ACC.
“This season was awesome,” Pereira said. “We started off really strong, going to the ESPN Clearwater (Florida.) tournament. It was something like I’ve never experienced in my life. It was really like the fair. It was so busy. We got to play there with top teams that (competed) in the (Women’s College) World Series.
“We beat some big-name teams. We beat Tennessee, we beat Washington, then we lost to Northwestern.”
Clemson lost to Florida State 8-6 in the ACC Tournament championship in Pittsburgh. However, Clemson was able to play host to an NCAA Regional the following week. In the regional, Clemson upended UNC Wilmington, Auburn and Louisiana and outscored them 18-0.
“It was crowded, so fun,” Pereira said. “We played great and our pitchers played amazing. They allowed like four hits total, I think the whole regional. It was just really, really fun. The fans at Clemson are incredible.”
Baity got to experience that fun first-hand.
“It makes you proud,” Baity said of Pereira’s success and being able to watch her during the Stillwater Super Regional on ESPN. “Nerve-wracking. I went and watched her at Clemson. Laiken (Baity’s youngest daughter) actually went down and spent the day with her one time. And then it was an awesome experience. Their facilities are unbelievable.”
The next day, Oklahoma State won 5-1, ending Clemson’s season.
“Honestly, everybody keeps saying, ‘I know your season didn’t end the way you wanted,'” Pereira said. “But if you would’ve told me I was going to end in Super Regionals that’s pretty much what I wanted my whole life. I didn’t even consider it as a possibility, honestly. So, it was really special to end in Super Regionals. And, of course, to end in the World Series would’ve been awesome, as well, whether that was losing or winning. But it was just really cool to be on that stage.
“And now that I know that Clemson is going to compete it’s going to be really cool to see them compete at that level. And just know that I was a part of starting that. But the atmosphere at Oklahoma State was incredible. You could tell that they’ve been on that stage a million times, and they know what they’re doing.”
It was still difficult to walk off the softball field for the final time.
“It was definitely hard,” Pereira said. “But it was a little bit of a sense of relief, not knowing that it was over, but relief knowing that I made the right decision to stay. I was thankful. I knew I had gotten everything out of college softball that I could’ve gotten out of it.”
And what’s she most proud of at her time at Clemson?
“As an infielder, because that became my primary position, was to stay at second base at Clemson,” Pereira said. “I started every game at second base in Clemson history. I think as an infielder I grew a lot a lot in college. That was one of the big things. I learned so much about defense and being a really good infielder, a much better infielder than I was.”
Now, although she might coach her children one day, Pereira is on to the next chapter in her life — med school.
“I’m really interested in reproductive medicine, and fetal surgery or something along those lines,” she said. “I’ve wanted to be anything else (but a doctor). I don’t really know where it started. I always knew that I was going to be strong academically, and I knew that I really like science, and I liked problem solving, and I liked talking to people and helping people.
“And I think I’ve always had a fascination for medicine. I just think that kind of evolved, and I knew that was something I was really good at.”
Baity will be right there as one of Pereira’s most vocal cheerleaders.
“I think it’s going to be very demanding, but obviously I think she can handle it because that’s what she’s wanted to do,” Baity said. “That’s what she’s always had in mind, and what she’s wanted to do.”
Even though Pereira has had some great memories playing softball at both Furman and Clemson, she sometimes stops and thinks about her time at West Forsyth.
“I’ve had a lot of softball memories since then, but not quite as special,” she said. “I would say the closest one that came to that was winning regionals this year — was probably the closest feeling I’ve had to that amount of pure joy and fun. And it’s hard, it’s been six years. It’s just hard to see everybody go their separate ways in life.
“But it’s really cool just to see where everybody is ending up, and everybody’s doing well. It’s been cool to see what everybody’s been doing.”