The Republicans walloped the Democrats last night in a Southwest Washington softball game and said the 26-2 score was only minor league play compared with what's going to happen in November.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Charles Manatt, however, speaking in baseball metaphors, said that once his game gets focused, his team will score the points it needs: "We're just getting out of training season now, and starting to play real hardball."

The Democrats and Republicans were slugging at each other for the benefit of the Big Brothers, the community service program that provides companions for the estimated 70,000 fatherless boys in the Washington area.

Manatt, who covered first base for the Democratic squad, said he felt terrific after the game even though he failed to get a hit: "I didn't get a charley horse and I caught an out. You've got to take everything into consideration."

"It must be demoralizing to be a Democrat right now," said Fred Biebel, the White House liaison for the Republican National Committee, obviously enjoying the game played at Randall Field on South Capitol Street. But Biebel, who didn't suit up for the game, wouldn't predict a sweep during the November playoffs. "Every game is different," he said, "but an early lead is always an advantage."

Stroh's beer sponsored the game, matching donations to Big Brothers and contributing a quarter for every UPC electronic scanner code from six-packs of Signature beer that team members turned in. The DNC versus RNC game, featuring two of the 85 teams participating in the "Signature Softball for Big Brothers" program, drew a crowd of about 200. Many of the players and fans were happy to end the game with a Signature.

"I need a beer," laughed Manatt as he crossed over to the Republican bench, and slapped Biebel on the back. Biebel said he needed more than that.

"I think the score is more an indication of how they spend than anything else," said Enrique Valenzuela, the Democratic committee's state and local liaison, sporting a shirt with the team's slogan: "We cover all the bases."

Even though Rep. Mickey Leland (D-Tex.), a Big Brother to a 16-year-old here, couldn't make the game, he pitched his support for the program from his office earlier in the day.

"We've got to do something because of the severity of the Big Brothers' financial problems. They have 1,000 fatherless boys who are waiting to be matched with Big Brothers right now." So far, he said, the Stroh's program has raised about $1,200, enough to cover the administrative cost of matching two boys with companions.

Back on the field, the Republicans' star catcher, Pamela Adkins, contended she had discovered a clue to the Democrats' true stance on women. During the game, she forced a dramatic out at home plate, tagging a runner sliding in from third, but she noticed that the Democrats didn't give their catcher half a chance to cover home.

"They put her in there, but then called in the first baseman to cover for her."