The Clark C. Griffith Collegiate Baseball League playoffs begin tonight with Bethesda and Southern Maryland battling for second place -- and a berth in the National Amateur Baseball Federation Division World Series that starts Wednesday at Joe Cannon Stadium in Dorsey, Md.

Arlington, which won the first and second rounds of the season to clinch the league title, will play in the All-American Amateur Baseball Association regional tournament that starts Monday in Altoona, Pa. The top three teams from that tournament advance to the AAABA World Series in Johnstown, Pa.

With three victories last week over Southern Maryland, Bethesda clinched second place in the second round of the Clark Griffith league to set up a best-of-three playoff with first-round champion Southern Maryland.

The first game is 7:30 tonight at Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda. The series shifts to Annapolis High School for 1 p.m. starts on Saturday and Sunday (if necessary).

"At the beginning of the season, our goal was to make it to Johnstown," Bethesda Manager Derek Hacopian said. "But we're happy to be playing for a berth in the NABF tournament. . . . For a first-year team that didn't really know much about the league or the recruiting process, we've come a long, long way."

Bethesda and Southern Maryland split 10 meetings this season. Six games were decided by one run and two went into extra innings. Southern Maryland won four of five games in the first round, three by one run. Bethesda won four of five in the second round, including the last three.

Right-hander Bo Acors will start tonight for Bethesda. Acors, a 5-foot-11, 190-pounder from Virginia Commonwealth, is 4-1 this season with 44 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings. Southern Maryland counters with left-hander Mike O'Connor, a 6-4, 165-pounder from George Washington. O'Connor is 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA. He has given up 19 walks in 30 innings and has 30 strikeouts.

Broken Records

Arlington outfielder Jared Dufault almost turned down the opportunity to play in the Clark Griffith league this season. His opponents wish he had.

Dufault, a 6-2, 195-pounder from Illinois State, broke two league records this season and came within one home run of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1995. Dufault led the league in hits (61), average (.409), slugging percentage (.617) and RBI (42), and was second in home runs (six).

His totals for hits and RBI shattered the previous records. Eric Herndon of the Maryland Bombers had 48 hits in 1996 and Eric Guyton of the Prince William Gators had 32 RBI in 1997.

"Jared had an amazing season," said Arlington Manager Chris Burr, whose team is the defending AAABA national champion. "The numbers he put up are incredible." . . .

Vienna's Brad Santmyer (Oakton) was named player of the week on Tuesday. In five games, the 6-foot, 225-pound first baseman went 7 for 16 with 6 runs, 5 home runs and 13 RBI.